Erema, Ansfeldan, Austria, has developed its Vacunite technology and debuted it at the PETnology conference in Paris Nov. 26-27. The Austrian producer of plastics recycling combined its Vacurema bottle-to-bottle process with its patented vacuum-supported solid state polycondensation (SSP) from Polymetrix in this innovation, according to an Erema news release.
The Vacunite expands Erema’s portfolio of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recycling solutions. The result is rPET pellets, which are unique in quality and exceed food-contact requirements, Erema reports in a news release.
“The growing commitment in society to handling plastics in a responsible way means that both political requirements and voluntary pledges of major beverage brands call for a significant increase in the amount of recyclate in end products,” says Christoph Wöss, Erema business development manager for the bottle sector in a company news release. “To fulfill these requirements, even more material in general and with varying quality due to different collection systems has to be recycled while, at the same time, the big brands are becoming even stricter with their requirements regarding the recyclates produced.”
Wöss says the process used in the Vacunite is based on a combination of Vacurema technology, which has been enhanced for this application, and the vacuum-supported nitrogen SSP from Polymetrix. All thermal process stages take place in the nitrogen atmosphere, which helps to eliminate flake and pellet discoloration and reliably remove additives that could lead to undesired reactions in the melt.
With Vacunite, the vacuum support cleans the nitrogen which means it can be returned to the previous processing stage and nitrogen consumption is reduced as a result. According to Erema, any remaining dust particles are removed from the pellets before filling to avoid preform contamination.
“Using vacuum support and nitrogen atmosphere creates rPET recyclates, which far exceed all existing food contact requirements, even those of the major beverage brands,” Wöss adds.
The recycling technology also offers a compact build, low-energy consumption and—when compared with other vacuum SSP systems—it offers considerably lower maintenance. The height and substructure have less impact on the dimensions of a plant building compared with other SSPs, Erema reports. The energy consumption of Vacunite for the entire production process from the flake to the final pellets amounts to about 0.35 kilowatt hours per kilogram.