Sep. 06, 2021

Tomra Japan launches a brand called “bottlium” for a fiber material made by recycling collected PET bottles

Tomra Japan, a Sumitomo Corporation Group company, named the PET pellets*1 which are made from PET bottles collected in reverse vending machines (RVMs) and used to produce a special filament fiber (extraordinary long fiber)*2 bottlium. The company aims to promote the material for use in a variety of apparel products.

Tomra Japan has installed RVMs at around 1,400 locations in Japan, such as supermarkets and convenience stores, and collected some 14,000 tons (550 million bottles) in 2019, which represents approximately 2% of the overall consumption in Japan. PET bottles collected in RVMs have no cap, no label, and no unfinished drink. They are confirmed to meet the requirements, collected, and compressed in the RVMs, which enables effective resource collection. Collected bottles are then transported to recyclers and processed into PET pellets that are used to produce fiber, sheet, and bottles.

Collected PET bottles are generally cleaned with chemical agents, whereas the bottlium technology uses ozone water to disinfect and sterilize the material, thereby achieving enhanced cleansing efficacy through the action of nanobubbles (ultrafine bubbles), which contributes to reducing environmental impact. The bottlium pellets are made only from PET bottles with the least impurities, which is enabled by the sensor technology of the RVMs. Being highly pure and easily colored, they can be used in a variety of apparel products.

The development of bottlium is linked to the “circular economy,” one of the six key social issues that Sumitomo Corporation identified as part of Sumitomo Corporation Group’s sustainability management. We will further contribute to protection and preservation of the global environment by strengthening the business to collect used PET bottles and expanding the sales of bottlium.

Logo mark of bottlium. The name “bottlium” was created with the idea that PET bottles will be a resource for the coming era.

Itaru Sato, Vice President of Tomra Japan, commented on the occasion of the launch of bottlium, “Given that about four million people in Japan have already used RVMs on a regular basis, Tomra Japan has been contributing to achieving a circular society by recycling high-quality PET bottles. However, most users see us as a mere PET bottle recycling company. I would like to let as many people as possible know that Tomra Japan is playing an active role in efforts to realize a sustainable society. Especially, I would like to achieve the kind of future as soon as possible where children enjoy playing sports, wearing uniforms made from bottlium.”

  1. PET pellets are a material made by pulverizing PET bottles. After foreign matter is removed, pulverized PET bottles are cleaned and dried into what are called flakes. These are then heated and melted into pellets.
  2. Special filament fiber (extraordinary long fiber)
    Fibers used to manufacture fiber products are classified into staple-length fiber (short fiber) and special filament fiber by the length of the raw fiber materials. Special filament fibers are used for sports uniforms, as they can be easily given functions such as fast drying property and water absorbability. Among those, special filament fibers can be given even higher functions. When producing them from recycled materials, PET bottles with the least impurities need to be used as the raw material.
The left photo shows flakes before aqueous cleaning, and the right shows after aqueous cleaning. Aqueous cleaning enhances the whiteness.
PET pellets. The flakes are further pulverized, heated, and melted into pellets.
Tomra Japan’s RVMs
A bottle being fed into an RVM. Processing one bottle takes only two to three seconds. The machine allows for consecutive feeding.