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Unifi wins US FDA approval to produce recycled bottle flake for food-grade packaging

Unifi has received a letter of no objection (LNO) from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to manufacture its post-consumer recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic flake for food-grade packaging.

The approval allows Unifi to use the recycled plastic flake to produce various food-grade packaging such as clamshells, trays and baskets for fresh fruits as well as vegetables and shell eggs.

In September 2016, the company opened its new Repreve bottle processing centre in North Carolina, US with an investment of more than $28m.

In addition to producing recycled plastic flake, the centre allows the sorting and cleaning of recycled bottles.

The centre is equipped to produce 75 million pounds of clean bottle flake in a year.

It also helps conserve natural resources by reducing the use of crude oil to produce virgin plastic for non-recycled packaging.

Unifi Repreve polymer sales vice-president Eddie Ingle said: “We are pleased to expand our end uses for Repreve bottle flake to include food-grade products.

“The Repreve Bottle Processing Centre uses custom-designed, cutting-edge technology to produce recycled bottle flake for high-quality, safe, environmentally responsible food packaging.”

The facility uses baled PET bottles, which are collected by the firm from materials recovery facilities across the eastern US.

At the center, Unifi removes labels, debris and caps from the bottles and chops them into flake.

The work is followed by chopping the PET bottles into flake, washing, drying and bagging for use in the production of Unifi's recycled Repreve fibre or chip.

Unifi said that the flake can also be used in a variety of consumer packaging applications including thermoformed food-grade packaging, as well as non-food applications.

Till date, the firm has recycled more than five billion plastic water bottles into Repreve fiber at the centre.