NextChem Constructs Demonstration Plant For Chemical Recycling Of PET And Polyester

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NextChem has completed the construction of the first demonstration plant in Italy for the chemical recycling of PET and polyester from textiles, as part of the EU’s DEMETO project. The plant is located in Chieti, in the Abruzzo Technology Park. The depolymerisation technology adopted, based on the reaction of alkaline hydrolysis with the use of microwaves, allows the plant to chemically recycle PET and polyester textile fibre waste and obtain pure monomers to produce new polymers.

The DEMETO project has been co-funded by the EU under the Horizon 2020 programme with NextChem as coordinator of a consortium of 14 partners, covering the entire value chain (NextChem, 3V Tech, SPINDOX UK, Technical University of Denmark, The European Outdoor Group, EuPC, The Fricke and Mallah GmbH, gr3n, H&M Group, NEOGROUP, RECUPRENDA, PETCIA, SUPSI, Synesis).

NextChem is the developer and co-licensor of the depolymerisation technology, owned by the Swiss start-up gr3n, as well as designer and constructor of the plant. Various types of materials, including polyester-based textile fibres, will be tested in the plant, which is capable of recycling almost 100% of the incoming material, amounting to 1 million kg/yr.

The project has been supported by an Industrial Advisory Board, which includes companies such as Unilever, Coca-Cola, Oviesse, Danone, Henkel and several others. This technology could contribute to the solution of some still-unresolved problems in textile waste recycling, such as mixed fibres. In Italy alone, tracked textile waste amounted approximately to 157,000 tons in 2019, of which 47% consisted of single and mixed synthetic fibres.

In Italy 5.7% of unsorted waste is composed of textiles, with a total estimated at 663 000 tpy. In Europe, each inhabitant uses 26 kg of textile material each year and disposes of 11 kg, with a total production of textile waste estimated at around 5 million tpy.

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