Researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK, have secured funding from Innovate UK to develop additives and processing approaches to integrate more recycled content into plastic bottles.

Under UK and European Union (EU) requirements, all new polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles will need to contain at least 30% recycled PET from 2030.

The researchers will work with Glasgow-based company EnviroPET and scientists at the University of Strathclyde on a two-year project backed by Interface Scotland.

Due to the large amount of variation in recycled plastic feedstock, plastic bottles made from PET are not easy to manufacture with recycled PET content.

It becomes difficult to ensure bottles’ mechanical and optical properties remain the same, which can cause issues such as bottle failures and inconsistencies in the final plastic bottles’ colour or clarity.

EnviroPET is developing PET-Yield, a liquid additive designed to be added when manufacturing PET bottles to boost the amount of recycled PET material in new bottles without causing any loss in property.

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EnviroPET managing director Douglas Craig said: “Our technology will help manufacturers comply with recycling targets and legislation and improve their bottle quality and environmental performance.

“It could potentially save firms millions by reducing the amount of raw material needed for new bottles, as well as the energy resource required for their manufacture.”

Led by Professor David Bucknall, the Heriot-Watt team will study the impacts of PET-Yield additives on PET bottles containing recycled material under laboratory settings before testing them on a production line.

The University of Strathclyde will combine artificial intelligence and deep learning to ensure the correct amount of additive is included when melt-processing PET mixtures.

There are currently more than 800 PET manufacturing facilities worldwide, 140 of which are located in the UK and EU.

At present, more than 580 billion PET bottles are produced a year, most of which contain little or no post-consumer recycled (PCR) material.