The implementation of development projects in the field of circular design usually requires the involvement of many stakeholders along the value chain. Circular design can only be implemented if the products at the beginning of the chain are designed in a such a way that they can be recycled and reused at the end of the chain.
These types of project are implemented as industry projects.
Circular Analytics can function as a service provider in these projects, not only offering analysis expertise on the one hand, but also managing individual project elements.
Industry project for recyclable food packaging film
The Circular Economy Package of the European Union and the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy poses great challenges to manufacturers of packaging and to the food industry:
- Plastic packaging must be designed to be sustainable and recyclable (circular design).
- Trading companies and manufacturers of branded goods have committed to switching to the exclusive use of recyclable plastic packaging within the next few years.
- The recycling rates for plastic packaging must be massively increased.
- In the future, fees for packaging licenses will be graded in accordance with ecological criteria.
- The collection of plastic waste needs to be improved in order to obtain high-quality feedstock for the recycling industry.
With regard to flexible plastic packaging, this represents a particular challenge. Satisfactory solutions for food packaging that requires barriers are still lacking in many cases.
The goal of this project is to develop sustainable recyclable solutions for flexible barrier packaging. In this context, at least three cases (areas of application) will be identified, and circular solutions will be developed.
The following cases have been included:
- Flexible packaging for sliced sausage/cheese (at present: multilayer film of various compositions)
- Flexible packaging for sweets (aluminium-plastic composites)
- Flexible packaging for potato crisps (plastic composites of various compositions).
For each case, at least one recyclable, sustainable best practice solution will be developed.
Industry project for recyclable PET trays
A variety of measures need to be taken to meet the recycling rates that are required under the European Circular Economy Package.
In the case of PET, the main focus of the past years has been on the separate collection and recovery of only one fraction: hollow articles. The fraction of rigid PET packaging accounts for over 10 % of all plastic packaging waste and can thus considerably help to meet the required recycling quota. Until now, recycling rigid PET packaging has been regarded as difficult, due to the lack of appropriate sorting and recycling technologies, as well as different material compositions and the resulting absence of a data base.
Innovative solutions such as those developed and demonstrated for the collection, sorting and recovery of PET trays in several projects run in the Netherlands and Germany cannot be transferred to Austria as the applicable waste regulations differ according to country, in addition to considerable differences in the collection systems, and thus also in the sorting systems, which in turn affects possible material recovery.
Here, specific Austrian approaches need to be developed, including detailed research into safety technologies for the materials in question, as well as the great regional differences regarding forms of collection and sorting.
In the PET-2-PACK project, similar to the project for PET hollow articles, a closed-loop system in line with the circular economy approach is being devised for rigid PET packaging (e.g. meat, vegetable or fruit trays, cups, film, lids, transparent packaging, plates, screw-cap containers, etc.) in Austria.
This requires the cooperation of all stakeholders along the entire value chain.
In the context of the project, sorting tests will be conducted in two existing post-consumer plastic sorting plants, with separation of the relevant fractions from the yellow-sack fraction. A manufacturer of optical sorting machines will provide the necessary support for the sorting plant operators who are tackling the complex task of separating a new fraction to a maximum degree of purity. The rigid PET fractions thus obtained will then be pretreated in the required way (shredded and processed to obtain flakes), followed by treatment with the NGR liquid-state polycondensation method – which, according to the manufacturer, uses the inherent capability of PET to condense under a vacuum in the melt phase: the high-performance vacuum decontaminates the material from harmful chemicals, thus enabling its further use for 100 % food contact.
As the resulting recycled materials are intended for use as secondary raw materials for packaging production, their material properties, as well as their chemical and toxicological composition and properties need to be examined by reputable institutes. Even though at present, the use of rigid PET recycled material for food contact is prohibited, this project includes all the necessary preparatory steps for subsequent approval for food contact.
In order to close the loop, tests are to be conducted to examine the suitability of the recycled PET for material and mechanical processing in the packaging manufacturing process.
Industry project for recyclable PE/PP hollow articles
The amendment to the Packaging Directive (94/62/EC) that has been brought about by the Circular Economy Package of the EU constitutes a paradigm shift for the plastics market of the European Union, as it stipulates that by 2030, 55 % of all plastic packaging and 60 % of all municipal waste in the EU member states must be recycled. In this context, polyolefins and their recovery in a way that permits the replacement of virgin material to an extent that is economically and ecologically feasible constitutes a major challenge. This is due to the low market value and the quality loss of PE and PP in the recovery systems that are currently being used.
Closing loops along the entire value chain; recycling PE/PP hollow articles from the food and non-food sectors for the production of new hollow articles for non-food use. In the case of polyolefins, no processes that are suitable for food products are currently available.
Market and potential analyses
- Survey of potential quantities and qualities
- Survey of national sorting capacities
- Analysis of critical parameters regarding collection, sorting and recycling
Collection and sorting
- Comparison of sorting types, sorting plants and sorting technologies
- Sorting tests
- Survey of technological options and innovation in sorting
Characterisation of recycling input and output materials
- Chemical analysis
- Life cycle assessment
- Assessment of genotoxicity in accordance with food legislation, in-vitro characterisation
- Development of recycling processes (regranulation, deodorising, additivation)
- Model tests with recycled material
- Examination of legal prerequisites
- Development of recycling formulations
Use of recycled materials
- Input of 100 % recycling compounds in production
- Integration of product and customer requirements
Design4recycling and assessment
- Drawing up recommendations based on practical experience and examples of good practice
- Standardisation of qualities aimed at increasing the input of recycled materials