Table of Contents

What is XTREME Renew?

XTREME Renew is the world’s first commercially available industrial plastic recycling system that produces food grade PET preforms containing up to 100% recycled PET from flakes in just one step.

 

Industrial Plastic Recycling Technology Example PET

 

XTREME Renew takes in washed non-food grade flakes from recycled PET and processes them into new preforms within the same machinery, creating a revolutionary “bottle to bottle” industrial plastic recycling system. This system falls into a perfect circular economy, a vital concept in today’s manufacturing world. XTREME Renew’s technology is able to cut down costs and protect the environment, all while producing high-quality food-compliant plastic injection molding preforms.

This innovative solution is possible thanks to the collaboration between two leading companies in the plastic manufacturing and molding industry, SIPA and EREMA. SIPA has 30 years of experience delivering PET containers solutions.

Headquartered in Italy and with locations all around the globe, SIPA offers an extensive list of products and services in the areas of injection-molding, blowing, filling and packaging.

 

SIPA Industrial Recycling Systems PET

 

EREMA is the world’s top developer and manufacturer of plastic recycling machines and their components headquartered in Austria. With over 35 years of experience, EREMA develops world-class machines and components consisting of vacuums, extruders, pelletizers, filtration systems and much more.

XTREME Renew consists of two fully integrated steps , the VACUREMA system by EREMA and XTREME by SIPA. The VACUREMA system intakes flakes from recycled PET and decontaminates, melts and filtrates them. The XTREME technology consists of a rotary platform that develops high-quality and light-weight preforms from the melt-flow provided by the VACUREMA system.

These preforms are molded in an injection-compression system that works at impressively high speeds.

 

Industrial Plastic PET Recycling Overview

 

The XTREME Renew system has been up and running for almost a year in the hands of EREMA and SIPA’s key Japanese partners, Kyoei Industry and Suntory.

Kyoei Industry is a major recycling company who produces preforms using XTREME Renew technology, while Suntory is one of the world’s largest beverage producers who buys these 100% recycled PET preforms from Kyoei Industry and blows them into bottles.

A second XTREME Renew system will be installed in Kyoei Industry’s space in 2020.

Both the XTREME and VACUREMA technologies have been installed around the globe individually. SIPA boasts thousands of preform systems around the globe while EREMA has installed 235 VACUREMA systems worldwide, making it the most proven technology in the production of direct food contact grade rPET.

Motivations

Today’s world asks for more sustainable ways of collecting resources and manufacturing, especially in the plastic industry. CO2 emissions are at an all-time high while our waterways are polluted with plastics.

Each day consumers shift further away from this type of packaging while governments take action. By 2025, the member states of the European Union must produce PET bottles with at least 25% recycled content. In the United States, the state of California has issued a law that states that all bottles sold in the state must have 50% recycled content by 2030. Adoption of sustainable technologies, along with recycling and consumer education are necessary to build an efficient ‘circular economy’.

Circular Economy is the concept of eliminating waste and have a continual use of resources in all processes that sustain a population. In a circular economy, waste ultimately becomes a resource which can be used again for equal or different purposes. XTREME Renew can process up to 100% washed flakes, and still deliver a high-quality product.

XTREME Renew encourages PET recycling while also cutting down on energy usage and CO2 emissions as it is a much shorter process both in duration and physical space than traditional methods of processing recycled PET. SIPA and EREMA take their social and environmental responsibilities very seriously, and therefore strive to lead in their field with sustainable technologies such as XTREME Renew. 

Processing recycled PET using traditional methods can cause inconveniences for manufacturers. Not only is there a significant amount of logistics costs, but the quality of the final product is not ideal. This is why most bottles labeled ‘made from recycled content’ are actually a mix of virgin PET with a low percentage of recycled PET. When processing recycled PET with traditional methods, it can be challenging to keep a stable IV (Intrinsic Viscosity) levels and low thermal stress in the material, which can lead to fracture.

Also, long processing of recycled PET often leads to coloring, where the material turns yellowish and the preform loses aesthetic appeal for blowing. XTREME Renew was made thinking on all these issues, and delivers a process that allows manufacturers to be more sustainable while creating bottles from recycled PET that boast virgin-like qualities. XTREME Renew delivers a stable output while having an input of many different materials.

 

PET Industrial Plastic Recycling Technology

 

Finally, in traditional methods there is not much design flexibility nor opportunities to create high-quality lightweight products. XTREME Renew allows manufacturers to be flexible in their designs as there are no fixed injection components and therefore no minimum thickness in the base of the preform.

This industrial plastic recycling technology makes lightweight PET bottles with highest standards and performance possible with a high percentage recycling content.

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The Process

The XTREME Renew system is able to process recycled PET in just one cycle. This is a huge simplification from traditional industrial plastic recycling systems, and it is possible since both the VACUREMA and XTREME machines work together with a continuous melt flow.

The main difference from traditional plastic recycling systems is that XTREME Renews skips the pelletizing steps. Traditional systems form PET pellets from the rPET, which need to be recrystallized and distributed to preform producers.

This means a high warehouse and logistic costs for the parties involved.

XTREME Renew is able to output preforms from rPET flakes in a single process of just three hours, making the system a great cost reducer and time saver.

PET Industrial Plastic Recycling Machinery

 

A breakdown of the XTREME Renew is the following:

  • Input: XTREME Renew uses 100% rPET washed flakes that come from bales of ground bottles. These flakes are fed into the system through a feeding point or a silo, where flakes are transported to the top of the XTREME Renew system. At the top of the system, the crystallization driers take in the flakes to start processing them.

 

  • Pre-drying and decontamination: in this first step, two parallel vacuum crystallization dryers take in the rPET flakes. They heat up the material to about 180 C in a vacuum environment, which removes moisture and contaminants very effectively and in a stable process environment. This process prevents the reaction of moisture and contaminants with the molten material at processing temperatures, which would decompose the material and reduce its physical properties. Overall, the material is pre-dried, crystallized and briefly decontaminated in a dwell time of 1 to 1 ½ hours in this station.

 

  • Vacuum reactor: the heated material then goes downstream into an insulated vessel called ‘Reactor’. This is a very important step of the XTREME Renew process, as material IV is lifted. The reactor is divided into three ultra-efficient compartments under a vacuum environment. The vacuum environment allows moisture to evaporate at much lower temperatures than usual, which translates to a faster and more efficient drying and decontamination process. In the reactor’s first compartment, external moisture is removed. In the second one, friction between the set up and the flakes further increase the temperature of the material to around 190 C - 210 C. Having heated up, the material’s internal moisture and rest of volatile contaminants are removed in the third compartment. This continuous treatment of diverse flakes creates a homogeneous substance, which along with a vacuum treatment of solid-phase poly-condensation, lifts the IV to a desired level. Bottle flakes enter the system with IV levels of 0.74 to 0.76, and the vacuum reactor is able to lift these up to 0.79 to 0.80 and keep them stable. Higher IV levels mean higher mechanical properties, which allow for trouble-free further processing of rPET flakes and for the blowing of these into preforms at the end of the process.

PET Food Grade PET Industrial Plastic Recycling Technology

 

  • Extrusion: decontaminated flakes are conveyed into a short extruder after their homogenization and IV lift in the reactor. In the extruder, the material is heated up to 280 C and plasticized while any bi-products are degassed, creating the molten substance that will be used later for preform molding. The XTREME Renew system contains only one short extrusion screw, since the melt goes directly into the injection compression wheel of the XTREME technology after filtration. The very short and robust single screw technology allows for a quick connection to the compression wheel, reducing the dwell time of the molten PET to a minimum and therefore the thermal stress on it. 

 

  • Filtration: the short extruder delivers the melt to the filtration system which eliminates the rest of solid contaminants that may be present. The automatic and ultra-fine filter is capable of removing even the smallest aluminum, steel and other particles from the melt. The filter pack is also equipped with a patented fully automatic self-cleaning system that ensures long filter life.

    Two types of filtration systems may be used in this step of the process:

 

    • SW-RTF: used for impurity levels of up to .1%, this automatic and ultra-fine filter is capable of removing even the smallest aluminum, steel and other particles from the melt. It has a very large active filter areas that enable filtration with up to 32 μm fineness with a low pressure level, resulting in minimized stress on the polymer.

 

    • Laser filter: recently-developed technology capable of handling up to 3% impurity levels. Self-cleaning filter system with rotating scraper disc enables weeks of continuous filtration that reduces melt loss. It can reach maintenance-free capabilities when processing low-contamination melts.

 

It is important to point out that an online viscometer is measuring the IV value of the material at all times during the ongoing process.

This continuous online IV measurement allows for influencing important processing parameters such as throughput, processing temperatures and filling levels.

 

  • Rotary molding wheel: filtered melt is transferred directly downstream into the XTREME system’s rotary injection-compression preform molding machine. There is a platform that elevates the XTREME machine’s height to match that of VACUREMA, allowing for a short and quick connection to the already short extruder. A pump provides enough pressure to lift the melt into the molding wheel while avoiding high drops in IV values. Melt is pushed up into the rotary manifold, distributing the melt to each station and then to each cavity. The molding system consists of 96 cavities that are all filled individually every 6.6 seconds for a 7.7 gram preform. In total, the system produces 50,000 preforms per hour. Each and every cavity has a dosing unit, which means that this industrial plastic recycling technology is capable of mechanically dosing just the PET quantity needed for each preform, allowing for design flexibility. The modular design of the wheel and press module allows for easy maintenance and format changeover of just 1 min/cavity.

 

  • Post-mold cooling: an additional rotary wheel called ‘transfer wheel’ extracts the preforms and transfers them to a post-cooling system. The preforms’ inner and outer surface are cold-air jet cooled for the duration of 6 cycle times. The cooling system does not require any maintenance nor change of customizations, as it boasts a high efficiency bearings and automatically adaptable pliers that handle the preforms. Preforms are released through four different points, with the possibility of performing 100% quality inspection and rejecting non-compliant preforms using optimal cameras.

 

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Advantages

The XTREME Renew PET industrial plastic recycling system has numerous advantages over traditional methods of processing rPET. XTREME Renew boasts aspects that make it a highly desirable machinery for plastic manufacturers as well as the world.

 

Industrial PET Plastic Recycling Summary

 

 

These advantages are:

 

  • Fast and continuous: XTREME Renew’s main advantage over traditional methods, and the root to many of its other advantages, is its major process simplification. XTREME Renew produces preforms from PET flakes in one continuous cycle. This means that XTREME Renew skips the pelletizing phase that traditional methods carry out. In traditional methods, input material is decontaminated, plasticized and turned into pellets, which are then transported to preform manufacturers and hence require extra drying and recrystallization processes to meet industry requirements for blowing. XTREME Renew cuts on the logistics costs of transporting and processing these pellets as well as the warehouse space they would take. The elimination of a second extrusion process cuts down on machinery space up to 20% and lowers TCO by 15%. Overall, XTREME Renew proves to be more efficient and simpler while being economically superior.

 

  • Sustainable and eco-friendly: XTREME Renew contributes strongly to sustainable manufacturing and circular economy in the plastic industry. It uses 100% washed flakes from bottle bales’ as raw material, which are processed and turned into preforms that will be blown again into bottles, all while maintaining quality similar to those of virgin PET. Transforming used PET bottles into new ones conserves a great amount of resources and benefits both the environment and the public. XTREME Renew’s short process, as stated above, contributes greatly to its sustainable nature. The drying and crystallization of pellets in traditional methods takes about 6 hours and a great rise of temperatures for the second extrusion process. Removing these steps recovers 30% of energy otherwise used and saves 1.4 million kW per year as XTREME Renew uses only 0.58 kWh/kg of PET transformed throughout its entire process. Water consumption is reduced too, as XTREME Renew uses medum free vacuum pumps that do not require water and cools off preforms with cold-air jet. CO2 emissions are lowered by 60% compared to virgin PET processing.

 

PET Industrial Plastic Recycling Energy Savings

 

 

PET Industrial Plastic Recycling Energy Costs

 

 

  • On a study performed by German company SKZ: regarding energy consumption in recycling systems, VACUREMA alone stood out in first place with the lowest energy consumption compared to nine other systems. The basis for these great energy and cost savings is XTREME Renew’s ‘decontamination prior to extrusion’ mechanism. Unlike traditional solutions, which require hours of energy-intensive decontaminating and increasing IV, XTREME Renew handles these tasks prior to its' first and only extrusion. This way of processing rPET flakes, packed with a series of designs and process engineering measures, helps increase energy efficiency, boost product quality and lower production costs, all at the same time.

 

  • High product quality: XTREME Renew’s most impressive aspect is its capability of producing high quality preforms from 100% recycled rPET. XTREME Renew’s preforms have virgin-like qualities without having gone through a lengthy and costly manufacturing process. These preforms have a very attractive color finish, the best achievable for any rPET. This is due to the process from flake to finished preform being extremely short and happening under a vacuum environment. A vacuum environment throughout the process assures that the material is decontaminated which prevents contaminants from reacting and causing material degradation and discoloration. Also, the short extruder minimizes the stress the material endures, which can also affect the color quality. As a result, preforms acquire a color that is on par with virgin PET. This optimal color make XTREME Renew’s preforms ideal for the manufacturing of multiple consumer products’ containers.

PET Food Grade PET Industrial Plastic Recycling

 

A very challenging task when processing rPET is keeping high and stable IV values. IV values are a central criteria for rPET processing since they have a significant impact on the mechanical properties of the end product. IV is a measure of polymers molecular weight and therefore reflect materials’ melting point, crystallinity and tensile strength. Exact IV values are required for different bottle applications and recycling systems must have low variability in these when processing materials. XTREME Renew is not only capable of lifting IV values by 10% from input to output, but it is also capable of providing stability, assuring a final product with IV values that lie within the tolerance thresholds for virgin PT material. This means that virgin material could be replaced with these type of rPET and have very little differences in the final product.

XTREME Renew lifts IV values through constant vacuum treatment and top input material homogenization. The low injection pressure and gentle treatment of material during the rotary molding wheel also minimizes the amount of IV drop, whereas in traditional method a great amount of IV is lost in this step. IV values are tracked in real time thanks to the online viscometer, which helps acquire desired levels.

Along with the online viscometer, XTREME Renew boasts a comprehensive quality control system. Up to 6 optimal cameras can be installed which check that there are not any black spots or defects in the preforms. Also, the body and gate of each preform can be checked to make sure they meet the quality standards for blowing and reject any if necessary.

Lastly, it is worth highlighting the compliance with food-grade requirements. XTREME Renew ensures reliability as flakes are decontaminated and any undesired migration substances are removed before extrusion. XTREME Renew produces highly clean rPET which fulfill the criteria of FDA, EFSA and well-known brand owners.

 

  • Reliable technologies: XTREME Renew system technologies make the above three points possible.  XTREME Renew’s basis of ‘decontamination prior to extrusion’ is the way of processing rPET is faster and more efficient than traditional methods, as it requires less space and energy consumption. XTREME Renew’s treatment of flakes over pellets contributes greatly to the process efficiency. Flakes are considerably thinner than PET pallets, and have a surface to volume ratio 2.5 times higher. Therefore, it is much easier and faster to remove moisture and contaminants from flakes and increase the IV value. EREMA has delivered more than 250 VACUREMA systems globally to date.

 

PET Food Grade PET Industrial Plastic Recycling Quality

 

Treating flakes prior to extrusion provides a high degree of flexibility too, as IV values and moisture levels are leveled out through constant vacuum environment and top homogenization. This is very important in the plastic industry, where raw material from bottles can vary significantly depending on the type of product the bottles held. XTREME Renew technology is capable of delivering a stable output that complies with a specific criteria from a mix of bottle flakes with varied characteristics. It also has control over the final product and is capable of changing the output to a defined quality level by balancing out the fluctuations of the input material, not to mention that flakes are generally cheaper than pellets, and when input into this technology, 8% less of them are required as a raw material to produce the same amount of preforms a traditional method would produce.

Both XTREME Renew’s filter and extruder minimize the stress on the material in process. The material is highly decontaminated when it enters the plasticizing  process, which lets the extruder be very short, cut energy consumption and improve coloring of the processed material as the dwell time is minimal and thermal stress levels are very low. The filter is capable of removing very small solid components that the melt may have and its large filter areas minimize the stress levels applied on the polymer as well. This gentle treatment of the material allows it to retain its high IV value and strong physical properties that are needed for blowing later.

There is a very low injection pressure when transferring the molten polymer into the rotary molding wheel. The low pressure not only minimizes the IV drop of the molten polymer, but requires less energy consumption and costs associated with it.

The rotary molding wheel has a greatly reduced cavity tonnage compared to traditional methods, which increases the life and quality of each cavity before changeover. A dosimeter in each cavity allows for some design flexibility, since two preforms can be produced simultaneously. Preform exits are also aligned and can be sorted into different bins, which makes the last step of the process very convenient and organized.

 

  • Design freedom and lightweight preforms: the trend towards bottle light-weighting solutions in today’s world should not be ignored. With this in mind, XTREME Renew is capable of offering a flexible design of high-quality lightweight preforms. Unlike traditional injection methods, XTREME Renew does not have fixed injection components with a minimum thickness in the cavity. Rather than this, the core is free to move and has a cavity of 10 mm of space. The melt fills in, the core is compressed and the preform is shaped, leaving a base of as low as 0.95 mm in thickness. The injection process has the highest L/T ratio that can be achieved, while keeping a low injection pressure, which results in an optimal preform design. Stable weight and IV values, as well as a minimal drop of IV, result in a top-quality preform with no stress cracking.

 

Thanks to this technology, XTREME Renew is capable of producing preforms as light as 3.9 grams for 220 mL bottles.

These light preforms contribute to a reduction in raw material use, carbon footprint and supply chain costs, all while maintaining quality at a maximum.

 

  • Easy operation and low maintenance: XTREME Renew is a highly automated system and requires very little human labor. Its process are equipped with intelligent technology that minimizes the amount of maintenance needed. The filter system is fully automatic and self-cleaning, which enables weeks of continuous filtration as well as a long filter life. The modular design of the wheel and press assembly is ideal for an easy maintenance and quick changeovers, while the spiral chain of the post-cooling system is equipped with high efficiency bearings and does not require any maintenance. XTREME Renew’s vacuum pumps do not require water and save operating and maintenance costs at the same time. Along with these efficient technologies, XTREME Renew offers remote maintenance should it be required and the traceability of valuable production data in order to document your quality reliability.

Conclusion

XTREME Renew proves to be the solution for many of the plastic industry challenges.

  • It is capable of producing bottles from 100% rPET flakes in just one cycle.
  • It decreases energy and logistics costs as well as required maintenance and human labor.
  • XTREME Renew is highly sustainable, boasting a much lower level of CO2 emissions than traditional methods and contributing to a perfect circular economy.
  • This technology, born from the collaboration between SIPA and EREMA, produces top quality preforms with physical properties that go in par with virgin-like PET characteristics.

 

XTREME Renew solves many PET industrial plastic recycling challenges while providing design flexibility and positively impacting the world.

Due to this, all parties involved in the development and use of the XTREME Renew technology have been recognized and awarded with a prestigious WorldStart Packaging Award on May of 2019.

The WorldStart Packaging Awards, hosted by the World Packaging Organization (WPO) are presented every year to what are considered independent experts in providing packaging solutions and applying technological innovations in this area.

XTREME Renew is a reliable and efficient system that is capable of doing what was unimaginable not so long ago. In a world where the importance of sustainability is rising, XTREME Renew delivers a solution that eliminates any possible side effects.

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