Japan Partnership for Circular Economy

Japan Partnership for Circular Economy


Collaborative research on recycling of PET plastics through chemical recycling

[Company / organization] Kirin Holdings Company,LimitedMitsubishi Chemical Corporation Kirin Beverage Company,Limited

Members, their roles, and reason for cooperation

Kirin Holdings Company, Limited and Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, Limited have launched a joint project in December 2020 to study and commercialize technologies for recycling PET through chemical recycling. By bringing together Kirin's knowledge of PET user technology and Mitsubishi Chemical's knowledge of PET manufacturer technology, both companies joined hands to create a vituous "cycle of recycling" in which plastics are recycled continuously.

Time started (or to be started)

The joint project began in December 2020, with the broad aim of building a fully operational chemical recycling plant by 2027.

Technology and business model

In order to achieve a "cycle of recycling" in which plastics continue to circulate, both companies considered the following initiatives would be required for the sustainable chemical recycling of PET:

・Collection of used PET bottles and other used PET products

・Recycling of used PET products through chemical recycling

・Production of new PET bottles and other PET-based products from the recycled materials.

During the course of this initiative, the two companies will be partnering with a range of businesses and organizations around the world that are similarly committed to the principles of open innovation and plastic recycling.

Only a small proportion of PET bottles in Japan is recycled into new PET bottles. The bulk of recycled PET material is used to make food trays, textiles for clothing, and other products. Thus, although PET bottles are recycled and reused, they are often incinerated afterwards without being recovered or recycled, and this approach does not necessarily constitute sustainable recycling. Conventional mechanical recycling, meanwhile, cannot efficiently isolate recyclable plastic from other unwanted materials in a PET bottle. This means that the quality of the plastic drops slightly every time it is recycled.

In the chemical recycling process conceived by Kirin Holdings and Mitsubishi Chemical, used PET bottles are first sorted, crushed, and cleaned to remove dirt and contaminants. The crushed material is then depolymerized via chemical decomposition to break it down into intermediate raw PET materials. These intermediate materials are finally refined and re-polymerized (i.e., synthesized) back to PET form. The synthesized materials have a much higher level of purity and are suitable for making new PET bottles.

Achievements and goals

The Kirin Group has set a goal where recycled PET plastics cover 50% or more of PET plastic usage in the Japan market by 2027.

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