Sustainable recycling of containers and packagingSustainable PET bottles

Plastic Policy

Kirin Holdings developed the Kirin Group Plastic Policy in February 2019 with the intention of finding solutions to issues related to plastic.
The convenience of plastic has made it a popular material for many different products, including containers and packaging. With such a vast range of types and applications of plastics, collection and recycling rates vary depending on the type of plastic used, and it cannot be said that all plastic resources are being efficiently circulated. Mismanaged plastic waste discarded into the environment is finding its way into the oceans, causing marine pollution and global concern about the potential adverse effects on ecosystems. To solve these problems, we must promote resource recycling for PET bottles.
In the Kirin Group Plastic Policy, to further promote the resource circulation of PET bottles, we pledged a target of increasing the percentage of recycled resin in PET bottles for the Japan market to 50% by 2027. We also declared that we would consider the introduction of PET resin made derived from inedible plant material, with the aim of moving away from petroleum resources.
In the Kirin Group’s Environmental Vision 2050 that we announced in February 2020, we declared our goal of creating a “society that sustainably recycles containers and packaging” by 2050. To that end, we are working to move to 100% sustainable containers and packaging that use recycled materials, biomass, etc.

  • Figure: Recycled resin usage ratio target

Expansion of the use of “R100 PET bottles” made from 100% recycled PET resin

In accordance with the Plastic Policy that we established in 2019, the Kirin Group is gradually expanding the use of “R100 PET bottles” made from 100% recycled PET resin.
“R100 PET bottles” use “mechanical recycling” technology to enable the use of recycled PET material as a raw material for PET bottles. With this method, we sort, crush, and clean used PET bottles, and then treat them at high temperatures in a state close to a vacuum. This means we can volatilize and remove impurities in the resin, and recover the molecular weight reduced during the recycling process to a level suitable for bottle molding.
These bottles use 90% less resin derived from petroleum and achieves a reduction in GHG emissions of 50-60% compared with regular petroleum-derived PET materials.
We began using recycled resin for some of the packaging of Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha Oishii Muto (sugar-free) product in February 2014. Subsequently, in 2019, we began using “R100 PET bottles,” which use 100% recycled PET resin, for Kirin Nama-cha Decaf, followed by Kirin Nama-cha and Kirin Nama-cha Hoji Sencha (600ml size for each), which are only available in convenience stores throughout Japan, from 2021. We also began using “R100 PET bottles” for Kirin Nama-cha Life Plus Immune System Assist from October 2021, and Kirin Nama-cha Caffeine Zero in April 2022, and we have since continued its use in these products. Of the Kirin Nama-cha products that we launched nationwide in April 2022, we plan to also gradually introduce the “R100 PET bottles” for vending machine products (555ml) by the end of the year.
The “R100 PET bottle” used for Kirin Nama-cha Decaf won the President of Japan Packaging Institute Award at the Japan Packaging Contest 2019, and the WorldStar Award in the beverages category at the 2020 WorldStar Packaging Awards Competition.

  • Figure: By giving new life to PET bottles as new PET bottles

    *Product photos are as of the end of June 2022.

  • Figure: Products using RlOO PET bottles as ot June 2022. From the lelt: Kirin Nama・ cha and Kirin Nama-cha Hoji Sencha (600ml size for each). Kirin Nama-cha life Plus Immune System Assist. and Kirin Nama-cha Caffeine Zero

Creation of new recycling routes with chemical recycling

In December 2020, Kirin began technical studies and a joint project aimed at commercialization with Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation Corporation, focusing on recycling PET bottles using chemical recycling.
In the current mechanical recycling system, there are impurities that are difficult to remove from recycled resins, and it is said that the quality of resins deteriorates with repeated recycling. In chemical recycling, we sort, crush, and wash used PET bottles to remove dirt and contaminants, then we depolymerize them (chemical decomposition treatment), and break down and purify the PET into intermediate raw materials, which we then polymerize (synthesize) again into PET. It is possible to recycle PET bottles to a state similar to new materials as many times as we want through decomposition down to the molecular level, and we can also recycle PET products other than used PET bottles into PET bottles. In addition to aiming to establish a circular economy for PET products, we will also build a system for collecting PET products other than PET bottles. Since 2022, we have been working with FANCL to promote the reuse of PET materials. In January 2022, Kirin Central Research Institute began joint research with Shizuoka University and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) to establish enzymatic PET recycling technology. The Kirin Central Research Institute has been conducting research and development on PET2 - a thermostable PET-degrading enzyme - since 2019, aiming to use it as a base to establish a kind of PET recycling using the enzymatic degradation method. This came in the course of searching for chemical recycling technologies that utilize the fermentation technologies Kirin has cultivated to date.
In July 2021, Shizuoka University and NINS announced the results of a study in which modifications to a PET2 enzyme significantly improved its thermal stability and PET degradation ability. By combining their respective knowledge, Kirin, Shizuoka University, and NINS aim to accelerate research and development for the practical use of PET-degrading enzymes, thereby using their technical capabilities to create a positive impact in society.

  • Figure: Society that continuously recycles plastics

Promotion of more efficient sorting, collection, and recovery

Aiming to create “a society that continuously recycles plastics,” in July 2021, we launched a demonstration trial to collect used PET bottle containers, in collaboration with Lawson, Inc. In June 2022, we also expanded the demonstration to Welcia Yakkyoku Co., Ltd.
In the demonstration trial at WELCIA, we collect and sort used PET bottles in collection boxes installed at WELCIA stores, and after gathering these materials at a WELCIA distribution center, we transport them to Far Eastern Ishizuka Green PET Corporation, a recycler.
Subsequently, we recycle the PET bottles into the raw materials for PET bottles through processes such as grinding and washing at a plant that manufactures recycled PET raw materials. After verifying the results of the demonstration at approximately 190 WELCIA stores in Saitama Prefecture, we will expand the scope of our activities to include other drugstore chains in the same area, and in the future, we plan to expand the size of our activities outside of this industry, including other retail industries.

  • Figure: Flow of recovery, recycling, and product creation

*Product photos are as of the end of June 2022.

Efforts to solve the global plastic problem

In March 2021, the Kirin Group joined the Alliance To End Plastic Waste (AEPW), an international non-profit organization, in order to solve problems related to waste plastic in the world from a global perspective, together with other participating companies. In cooperation with global companies, organizations, and other entities involved in the plastic value chain that participate in AEPW, we are promoting projects in four strategic areas: “infrastructure creation and development,” “innovation,” “education and awareness-raising activities,” and “clean-up activities.”

*All of the above information is as of the end of June 2022.