JAPAN – Japanese chemical company DIC has inked a strategic partnership deal with FP Corporation (FPCO) for closed-loop recycling of plastic food trays.

The recycling process will use the world’s first dissolution and separation recycling technology for polystyrene, the raw material used in plastic trays for food products.

With the help of chemical recycling technology, the program intends to make it possible to recycle polystyrene back into styrene monomer, which is used to make new polystyrene.

In November 2020, DIC and FPCO announced plans to work together to put into practice a closed-loop recycling system for polystyrene.

FPCO encourages “tray-to-tray” recycling by acquiring post-consumer foamed polystyrene food trays from roughly 10,000 collection bases located in supermarkets and other places throughout Japan and recycling them into new food trays.

Depending on their intended purpose, foamed polystyrene food trays can be either white or colored and households can recycle discarded white trays into fresh food trays.

Since pulverizing colored foamed polystyrene trays yields black pellets whose usage is limited due to their color, these trays are generally recycled into materials for clothes hangers and other household items.

To resolve this, DIC has developed a new dissolution and separation recycling technology specifically for colored trays.

This technology will be implemented at polystyrene production facilities, enabling “tray-to-tray” recycling of colored foamed polystyrene food trays as white trays.

It makes use of the technologies and polymer design capabilities DIC has developed as a manufacturer of inks to remove colored elements from black pellets.

The two companies aim to start recycling post-consumer colorful foamed polystyrene food trays in the fiscal year 2023.

They also want to merge this technology with chemical recycling, which they are simultaneously promoting, to create a hybrid recycling process.

In its DIC Vision 2030 long-term management plan, DIC identifies responding to a circular economy as a central sustainability strategy and as a challenge critical to the realization of a sustainable society.

Looking ahead, the firm will continue collaborating with customers and suppliers across its supply chain with the aim of achieving greater circularity in the important market for food packaging.

With annual consolidated net sales currently in excess of ¥800 billion (US$6.01 billion) and 22,000-plus employees worldwide, the company pledges to continue working in close cooperation with stakeholders to drive sustainability.

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