Q: Tell us about Ioniqa?
Ioniqa is a cleantech spin-off from the Eindhoven University of Technology (The Netherlands) and is specialized in “magnetic smart materials” and separation processes. This has led to the invention of a profitable circular solution for almost a quarter of all plastic waste in the world.
Q: TAnd you’ve got a new PET bottle recycling process?
We’ve discovered the key to the Eternal PET Bottle and/or the Eternal T-shirt, with an innovative process to recycle all types and colors of PET Polyester waste into virgin-grade raw materials, suitable for any new PET application. This process can be repeated endlessly with no degradation in quality.
The best news is that the recycled raw materials can compete in both cost and quality with virgin raw materials, produced from crude oil.
Q: What stage in development are you at?
In 2013, Ioniqa managed for the first time to prove its circular recycling technology successfully on a laboratory scale. Then we realized in 2014 a scale-up to one liter volume and proved again that our technology not only worked but was economically feasible as well. Currently Ioniqa is successfully testing its process in the Port of Rotterdam on a scale of 1,000 liters. Internationally, there is a lot of interest in our process and curiosity by consumer brands about the effects on industrial level. This year – 2017 – we will start to develop our first production plant of 10 kilotons in the Netherlands, the first country in the world where post-consumer PET Polyester waste will be upcycled cost effectively on an industrial level. This innovation can then be copied and scaled up globally through licensing.
Q: What’s the special aspect of what you do?
The current mechanical recycling techniques for PET plastics are unable to separate the colors from PET waste and have a limited lifecycle because the quality diminishes after each recycling round. So it’s possible to recycle PET bottle-to-bottle but a used blue bottle can only be recycled into a blue bottle again, and after six rounds the recycled material is worn out.
Ioniqa discovered that a process which uses magnetic smart materials was able to completely break down PET polymers into their original building blocks: pure colorless monomers. These recycled virgin-quality raw materials can be polymerized into any kind of high-quality new PET or Polyester product.
The Ioniqa methodology with magnetic, catalytic nanoparticles is a platform technology. That means that our process can be applied for other waste materials as well. We’re currently doing research on other types of plastics and organic materials such as cotton and paper. Our ambition doesn’t stop with PET.
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