US-based recycler Rumpke Waste & Recycling and speciality materials company Eastman have joined forces to expand the recycling of hard-to-recycle and coloured PET packaging waste.  

As part of the initiative, Rumpke will collect and sort PET waste materials that remain unaddressed in the current recycling ecosystem. 

Rumpke will then offer this waste stream as feedstock for the molecular recycling process of Eastman, which will convert the waste stream into virgin-quality polyesters. 

These polyesters will be reused in a range of packaging applications. 

The partnership will improve the circularity of coloured and opaque PET by using Rumpke’s investment in innovation processing and Eastman’s molecular recycling technology.  

Coloured and opaque PET is used across many consumer applications, including personal care and cosmetic packaging, detergent and soap packaging, and several dairy and food packaging solutions.  

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However, traditionally, several of these applications have not been able to transition to completely circular packaging.  

The initiative diverts waste from incineration or landfills, which is in line with both companies’ vision of a world without waste. 

Eastman executive vice-president and CCO Brad Lich said: “Rumpke and Eastman are both committed to innovative approaches to reducing plastic waste through collaboration. 

“This partnership reinforces the complementary nature of molecular and mechanical recycling to keep more raw materials in the circular economy enabling brands to meet their recycled content goals.” 

The partnership comes as Eastman is on the verge of launching its material-to-material molecular recycling facility in Kingsport, Tennessee, US.

The plant is designed to recycle 110,000 tonnes of hard-to-recycle plastic waste annually, with plans to ship its first products in the coming weeks. 

In December 2023, Eastman partnered with skincare manufacturer Neutrogena to develop a film-free, recyclable cosmetics packaging solution