Development of PET packaging with increased heat resistance through waste recovery
The vast majority of PET packaging, currently available on the market, has an amorphous structure (APET) and therefore their heat resistance is limited. The coronavirus epidemic further increased the need for crystalline PET (CPET) packaging with resistance to high-temperature, which also allows the improvement of food safety and preparation of foods with increased gastronomic value by baking. However, such raw materials can only be obtained in original form at high prices. The aim of the project is to develop formulations that enable the production of PET packaging materials meeting the increased application requirements at a lower cost, with value-added waste recovery (in the light of structural features that provide properties for higher expectations). This way we can develop a new kind of thermoformed product able to be heated up in an oven with its ready meal content, that has high heat stability and contains significant amount of recycled material. This will be possible based on the new finding outlined in the consortium members’ joint patent application, which results in a significant improvement in the properties of low-quality waste by a reactive method and a well-controlled process. The technology improvement activity includes methodological development of real-time sensor-information (e.g. adaptation of machine vision), which also serves the wider development of digitization in the industry. Our further aim is to investigate how the recyclability of high-temperature CPET trays made by the process can be solved for conventional heat-resistant and highly heat-resistant products depending on the additives and technological characteristics used in recycling, thus ensuring that the developed products can be fully integrated into the circular economy model. Increased interest in heat-resistant packaging targeting more demanding consumption has sparked international competition for an expanded market, but this is hampered by the high price of CPET. Significant advantage can be achieved in profitability if an innovative process manages to meet the quality requirements at a lower price. However, such a method is not known excepting the applicant’s invention, which provides priority protection and thus profitability of the products made using it. The indirect target group of the business plan is the demanding young consumers in Western Europe, but there is a visible trend of increasing expectation in Central Europe too, primarily with regard to food safety, which the products to be developed can provide at an outstanding level. Our main competitors are the few plastics processing companies in Western Europe (e.g. Faerch A/S in Denmark and Versatile Packaging in Ireland), mostly in the Far East and the United States, which already produce high-temperature trays for heating and baking semi-finished foods, but these products are still made of expensive industrial materials and not from cost-effective secondary raw materials (requiring appropriate treatment and technological features). With an average income of HUF 132 m, the results of the project can be calculated on an annual basis, so the return on the project is ensured within 4 years. Both the proportion of secondary raw materials used in the production of high-temperature products and the high recyclability factor ensure the long-term sustainability of the project result, as the project idea itself comes from a patent-based recognition whose protection gives us a long-term technological and price advantage. Our potential customers will consist of our current partners, other new food production and packaging companies as direct users, and we see significant potential in global distribution companies providing complex packaging systems, even in Hungary (e.g. KREIS Pack and Bunzl).