Suntory forms joint venture to tackle plastic waste

30th June, 2020 by Nicola Carruthers

Japanese spirits producer Suntory has teamed up with 11 companies on a new joint venture that will develop innovative technology for used plastics.

The Suntory Yamazaki Distillery in Osaka, Japan

The new joint venture, called R Plus Japan, is a collaboration between various companies, spanning raw materials manufacturers, packaging suppliers and drinks firms.

R Plus Japan is formed of 12 firms: Suntory, Toyobo, Rengo, Toyo Seikan Group, J&T Recycling Corporation, Asahi Group, Iwatani Corporation, Dai Nippon Printing Co, Toppan Printing Co, Fuji Seal International, Hokkaican Co and Yoshino Kogyosho Co.

Last year, Suntory established a new plastic policy to promote sustainability globally. The firm will aim to use 100% sustainable plastic bottles globally by 2030 by moving to recycled materials or plant-based materials in all polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.

“The establishment of R Plus Japan is a significant step toward achieving a circular economy. While Suntory is committed to achieving fully sustainable plastic in our PET bottles used globally by 2030, we are also determined to find long-lasting solutions for sustainable use of materials in other sources of plastic packaging,” said Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings.

“We know that our efforts will be stronger if we work together, so Suntory took the initiative to establish R Plus Japan in partnership with various committed organisations across the supply chain.

“This cross-industry collaboration builds on Suntory’s ‘yatte minahare’ spirit, the spirit of bold ambition, to tackle the complex global issue of single-use plastics.”

In 2012, Suntory partnered with US technology company Anellotech to assist on the joint development of key components required to make 100% plant-based PET bottles.

In support of R Plus Japan, Anellotech will leverage and adapt its process technology for the Plas-TCatTM application, which will convert mixed plastic waste into basic chemicals to make new plastics. The one-step thermal-catalytic process will allow the industry to more efficiently recycle single-use plastic.

Global plastic waste issue

“The significance of chemical recycling is its ability to transform and convert plastic waste into its original chemical components, to eventually produce new plastics,” said Tsunehiko Yokoi, CEO of R Plus Japan.

“Turning used plastic into secondary, raw materials enables the sustainable use of resources for various industries across the plastics supply chain.

“Through the development of this innovative technology, we hope to contribute to solving the global plastic waste issue, which has long been a challenge due to its difficulties in recycling. We’re very excited to work with our industry partners to move this important work forward.”

The firm will continue to seek further investors, and companies such as Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical Company are currently considering joining.

R Plus Japan hopes to advance the development and commercialisation of the eco-efficient plastic recycling technology by 2027.

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