Learning from flexpack industry: Closing the loop

Conference Dates

March 20 – 23, 2022


Recycling of used plastic material is one of the key challenges for the plastic industry. The European single use plastic directive (Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment) bans certain single us plastics like straws, food plates, balloon sticks, EPS (expanded polystyrene) food containers as of 3rd July 2021. Also, collection rates for single use plastic bottles are set within this directive. However, the end goal is an EU circular economy model via which remaining disposable plastics will be reusable or recyclable by 2030.

Right now, the SUPs ban exempts medical-related plastics, including test kits, FFP2 or medical masks as well as gloves that have become so widespread during the Covid pandemic. However, this may also change in future.

The most obvious way to recycle plastic and therefore avoiding plastic waste going into incineration or even worse into landfill is the mechanical recycling. Some industries with dedicated and pure material streams - preferably on mono materials - are using this technology already very effectively e.g. transport packaging, PET or HDPE bottles with implemented collection systems.

In Flexpack industry often multilayer laminates are in use due to their superior properties. These materials are often combinations of different Polymers and are therefore generally more complex in recycling. However, first examples show that this recycling loop is feasible even in food packaging applications. Published recycling studies done by Polymer producers show the impact of certain PA or EVOH quantities in recycled materials. First own closed loop projects with dedicated customers support these studies. Further optimization - especially during the compounding process need to be done and first concepts will be presented.

Contaminated materials or very complex structures may be converted via chemical recycling routes. A first proof of concept will be presented. From the production of materials, via the purpose of use, collection, chemical recycling, polymer production and use chemically recycled polymer (Mass balance system) back into film production.

The use of PIR (postindustrial recyclates) or even PCR (post-consumer recyclates) in very demanding markets like medical device or SUT packaging may be limited. However, this kind of packaging waste may be used in technical applications. A chemical recycling loop would be open also for demanding applications, as basically virgin material will be produced and hence deliver plastic material fulfilling highest quality standards.

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