For Enka, this alliance with Dow is not only a technological advance, but also a great impact on social and sustainability matters ”, says Álvaro Hincapié, President of Enka.
Dow, a leading materials science company focused on a strong sustainability and circularity strategy for plastics, and Enka, a Colombian company focused on circular economy, innovation and high engineering, presented the new recycled resin available for the Colombian market; first product of its long-term alliance announced in 2019. This innovation is a high quality polyethylene resin (HDPE or HDPE), focused on flexible packaging applications for different industrial applications (not food grade), such as those commonly used in household cleaning products and detergents, among others. This development is a great step to facilitate the recycling of plastic in Colombia and the creation of new containers and packaging from it. The aim of this alliance is to continue building circular ecosystems so that more companies can bring these benefits to their value chain. Likewise, one of the purposes of Dow and Enka as leaders in the packaging and recycling industry, respectively, is to connect and work with all allies in the chain such as recyclers, NGOs, associations and governments, to ensure the scalability of this type of project.
The PCR resin is part of the new REVOLOOPTM family, a brand through which Dow is amplifying the offer of post-consumer recycled plastics in Latin America and globally, through collaboration with partners with solid experience in the waste and recycling industries. In Colombia, the ideal partner to generate this long-term alliance was Enka, the most important recycling company in the region, which has the largest PET bottle transformation plant in South America. Enka converts the caps and labels that accompany the bottles into polyethylene resins (PCR) under the formulation specially developed by Dow, so that they can be used in the generation of new products, ensuring their processability, quality and performance.
“With this innovation, we are taking the first step in the search to improve recycling rates through alliances with companies and communities in different regions. Through each new project we complete, we promote the creation of more circular packaging. " says Carolina Mantilla, Director of Sustainability for Dow's Specialty Plastics and Packaging business.
For the last quarter of 2022 with an investment of more than USD 40 million, Enka will put into operation a new plant with which it will double the PET recycling capacity, recovering more than 6 million bottles daily, and will become one of the world leaders in this business. Additionally, this initiative will allow us to process more than 4,000 tons of polyolefins from caps and labels.
“Through mechanical recycling, post-consumer polyethylene caps and labels are reconverted into resins that can be reused in the production of new non-food packaging and we seek to make more and more recycled packaging available to Colombian consumers, which will have an impact on consumption more responsible for meeting the country's sustainability goals for the future, ”says Maria Paulina Sandoval, Dow's Sustainability Manager.
The new PCR resin will allow, in the first instance, the reduction of 2,000 tons per year of plastic waste generated in the country, a figure that will double with the new Enka plant. This is quite an important number if one takes into account that Colombia barely recycles 17% of the waste it generates. To which is added a lower impact on the carbon footprint, lower consumption of energy and water in its production, compared to the production and / or use of virgin or first-use material.
“Enka, through its subsidiary Eko Red, has the largest PET bottle collection network in Colombia, with a presence in 29 departments and more than 900 municipalities, benefiting all recyclers in the country. Therefore, the development of PCR resin will undoubtedly have an impact on improving the living conditions of thousands of Colombian families and putting recycling and source separation more and more on the public agenda. For Enka, this alliance with Dow is not only a technological advance, but also a great impact on social and sustainability matters ”, says Álvaro Hincapié, President of Enka.
What is the process of making the PCR resin?
The preparation of REVOLOOPTM resin marketed by Dow in Colombia will be manufactured in Enka through mechanical recycling. This is a physical process by which post-industrial or post-consumer plastic is recovered for reuse and application for other purposes. In other words, it is that physical-mechanical process through which the plastic is selectively collected, compacted, separated, ground, washed, dried, extruded, filtered and pelleted to be used as a new raw material.
- To obtain the resin, the following steps are carried out:
- 1. The cooperatives of recyclers collect and separate the PET bottles. They are then pressed and sent to Enka.
2. At Enka, lids and labels are separated from PET. PET is used in the manufacture of high added value resins and fibers.
3. The caps and labels go through a washing and grinding process, forming small flakes.
4. To melt them, the flakes go through an extrusion process where the temperature of the material is increased by heating and friction through a large screw.
5. The molten polymer is filtered, cooled and passed through the pelletizer, to make those little resin balls called pellets.
6. The final product undergoes a new quality check and is finally packaged, to be marketed by Dow.