BP to test technology to recycle plastic bottles again and again

FILE PHOTO: Bundles of pressed PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles made out of plastic are seen at the Transcycle Transport & Recycling AG company in Neuenhof, Switzerland November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - BP BP.L plans to build a $25 million pilot plant to test new technology the energy company says will allow plastic bottles and food packaging to be recycled again and again.

Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is one of the most widely recycled plastics. About 27 million tonnes of PET is used annually in packaging, with bottles accounting for around 23 million tonnes of that, BP said in a statement, citing data from consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

However, only around 60% of PET used for bottles is recovered, with the vast majority recycled only once before being either buried in landfill or burnt as the current recycling process leaves a lot of impurities.

BP said that its new recycling technology, named Infinia, can transform used PET plastics into brand-new plastic feedstock, allowing them to be recycled repeatedly.

The company will build a $25 million plant in the United States in 2020 to test the technology before deciding on whether it can be fully commercialized.

BP’s head of refining and petrochemicals Tufan Erginbilgic said the technology was a “game-changer” for the plastics recycling industry.

“It is an important stepping stone in enabling a stronger circular economy in the polyester industry and helping to reduce unmanaged plastic waste,” Erginbilgic said.

Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by Kirsten Donovan