Dr. Joost Wolters (Ioniqa): Magnetic Ionic Liquids

Closing the loop for PET

Dr. Joost Wolters, Research Chemist Ioniqa

Ioniqua is a clean-tech spin-off from the Eindhoven University of Technology (The Netherlands), specialized in Magnetic Smart Materials and Separation Processes. With this proprietary technology Ioniqa found a profitable circular solution for all kinds and colors of PET and polyester waste.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a polymer, widely used for bottles and food packages but also as polyester in textiles. The global production of PET is about 61 million tons a year, of which 90 % is incinerated, landfilled or dumped in nature after a short use. The main reason: the inability to extract colors and other impurities from PET waste in an economic viable way. An unimaginable loss for both the environment and the economy.

Conventional mechanical recycling techniques cannot remove contaminants from plastics, only allowing for downcycling to lower-grade materials. In Ioniqa’s process, however, PET is completely depolymerized to ‘virgin-grade’ raw materials, in cost and quality competing with the oil-based alternative.

Ioniqa has developed a game-changing process that uses magnetic nanoparticles for chemical recycling of PET. This material acts as both a catalyst, enabling depolymerisation at mild conditions, and aids in the removal of contaminants. Furthermore, it can easily be separated and reused.

This technology is now demonstrated at a 1,000 L pilot plant in Rotterdam. Next step will be the building of our first 10 kton production plant in the Netherlands, which will be the start of an industry transition to close the loop for all PET in the world.