From PET bottle to polyurethane foam: SOPRALOOP innovates and recycles


Until recently, complex PET packaging such as non-transparent milk bottles and multilayer crates ended up in incinerators or on the waste heap. ‘Surely it could be made ecological!’, believed SOPREMA Group. As such, we opened the first recycling unit in the world which offers a solution to this problem. Thanks to SOPRALOOP we can now transform discarded plastic packaging into polyols, one of the main components of polyurethane foam

The result of an effective eco-sourcing policy

For more than twenty years, SOPREMA Group has been applying an effective eco-sourcing policy, striving to replace petrochemically produced raw materials with ecological alternatives from vegetable biomass or recycling. We are now going one step further with the processing of complex PET packaging. Up until now, the technique has never been applied industrially to plastic packaging. But thanks to in-depth research and an investment of fully ‎€7 million, we have created market opportunities for recycled plastics. The unique recycling process of the SOPRALOOP production line in Strasbourg is as follows:

Step 1: Supply of complex PET packaging in bales.

Step 2: Transfer to a mechanical recycling line.

Step 3: Optical sorting to remove contaminants.

Step 4: Underwater cleaning of the packaging and grinding into flakes.

Step 5: Separation of the flakes according to density, to remove residual dirt.

Step 6: Chemical recycling in the first reactor, followed by additives in the second reactor.

Step 7: Production of polyol, an essential component of polyurethane foam.

Step 8: Transport of polyol to the two SOPREMA polyurethane plants at Saint-Julien-du-Sault (France) and Hof (Germany).

Step 9: Production of polyurethane foam for buildings.

SOPRALOOP gets support from Citeo

This world first has the support of Citeo, a French company specialising in the recycling of household packaging. Together with this partner organisation, we plan to start a – still to be set up – French collection stream by collecting and processing PET packaging in various sorting centres. This invaluable collaboration will allow the SOPRALOOP unit to operate the two polyurethane plants of the SOPREMA Group (Saint-Julien-du-Sault and Hof), which are equidistant from Strasbourg.

The production line continues to grow

In the first year of the SOPRALOOP production line, we expect a processing capacity of 3,000 tonnes of complex PET packaging, which in turn will yield 5,500 tonnes of polyols. This capacity will double or even triple over the next five years. In the future, as we gain experience, we plan to produce even more polyols. In this way, we are reducing the impact of plastics on the environment while developing high-quality, recycled raw materials.

Would you like to find out more about SOPRALOOP? Then don’t hesitate to contact us.