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"We can bring PET back to its pure base material"

Plastic is used in many products and packaging. One of the most important plastics is polyethylene terephthalate, or PET for short. Heraeus acquired a majority stake in revalyu, a global leader in chemical PET recycling, in 2022. The company, founded in the Indian city of Nashik, has developed a novel recycling process for PET bottles. In this interview, Jan van Kisfeld, Managing Director of revalyu, talks about the innovative technology and its potential.

Two big white yarn rolls are in the focus

revalyu recycles plastic waste and creates high-quality materials from its base substances. What is innovative about your recycling process?

We have developed a chemical recycling process that does not require the addition of catalysts or additives. Compared to other procedures, our process is run at lower temperatures and lower pressures. This makes it particularly cost and energy efficient. During chemical recycling, we can completely dissolve existing impurities in the PET bottles and return the PET to its pure base substance. Our recycled PET is therefore of very high quality and due to its purity, it is suitable for even the most demanding applications. The quality is comparable to conventionally produced PET.

Jan van Kisfeld, Managing Director of revalyu, speaking with a microphone next to two posters
Jan van Kisfeld, Managing Director of revalyu

Where is the recycled PET used specifically? 

We produce extremely fine yarns for the textile industry. They are currently used in high-quality outdoor and functional clothing, but also in the automotive industry, in furniture or in technical textiles such as flame-retardant fabrics. Our plant also produces so-called r(ecycled) PET chips, which our customers in turn use to manufacture their own fabrics in the product areas mentioned above. Theoretically, recycled PET can be used for all applications based on PET.

PET recycling reduces CO2 emissions, saves energy and conserves natural resources. revalyu's process appears to be particularly sustainable.

That's right, our recycling process uses over 90 percent less energy and around 75 percent less water than conventional processes for producing crude oil-based PET polymers. Furthermore, the recycling process can be repeated indefinitely.

Why is the focus of recycling currently on PET bottles?

PET bottles that are thrown away after a single use ending up in landfills or being incinerated are a large part of the plastic waste problem. Since several hundred billion PET bottles are produced each year, they are sufficiently available and relatively easy to recycle with our technology.

However, we are already researching how to recycle polyester clothing. But this is much more complex. Before the fabrics are broken down into their basic chemical substances by our process, several intermediate steps are required. For example, buttons and zippers must be removed. It is also necessary to shred the fabrics and remove colors.

Two hands holding PET chips made from used PET bottles
PET chips made from used PET bottles

Currently, 40 tons of PET bottles are recycled every day at the revalyu plant in India. And we won't stop there.

Our goal is to recycle 100 million PET bottles a day by 2026, which is equivalent to 1.000 tons a day. We have already started building two new plants in Nashik, India and the construction work is progressing well. At the beginning of next year, we want to start production and aim to reach a capacity of 200 tons per day in India alone. In addition, we will start building a new plant in the USA this year, which will have a capacity of 100 tons per day in its first phase. Later, we can expand to 200 tons per day in a second phase.

Multiple white yarn rolls laying on one another
Fine yarns made from recycled PET for use in the textile industry

Where do you think your PET recycling journey is headed?

The potential is immense. So far, our focus has been on producing PET for recycled textile fibers and rPET chips from used bottles.

Our goal is to develop our technology further so that we can use it for other PET-based starting materials and end products. For example, we work on closing the PET bottle cycle with the help of our technology. In the future we want to offer recycled rPET chips as basic material for new bottles. Additionally, we want to be able to recycle other starting materials with our process, such as polyester textiles.

The longer and more intensively we work with our technology and the outstanding quality of our material, the more it becomes clear how wide the range of possible products and applications can be. This is an exciting process for all of us at revalyu. It's worthwhile to keep researching and think bigger.