Evaluation of the recyclability of flexible food packaging materials in function of their composition & the resulting shelf life of food products
Pack4Food, Flanders' FOOD, Catalisti, Centexbel and UHasselt
Plastic food packaging materials preserve and protect the quality of food products and extend their shelf-life. Seemingly ‘simple’ foils for the packaging of a broad range of food products (e.g. cheese, meat) often consist of multiple layers of different polymers, each contributing their own functionality to the overall packaging. Due to the strong physical attachment of these layers, separation to polymer level is not always possible and thus mechanical recycling is hindered. Therefore, the main valorisation route of these multilayer packages is through incineration with energy recovery. Both on European and Belgian level ambitious objectives for the recyclability of food packages have been stated. According to the European Plastic Strategy, 55% of all plastic packaging needs to be recycled by 2030, while the Belgian Food Industry (FEVIA) states that 65% of plastic food packaging should be recycled by 2023. As a consequence, the search for recyclable alternatives with similar functionality is now high on the agenda.
"How can a multilayer plastic food packaging be recyclable and at the same time have the optimal barrier properties to ensure the shelf life of food products?”
The research approach itself consist of two important segments:
- A knowledge segment
which gives an overview of the latest trends and innovations in the packaging industry and the sorting and recycling industry, relevant to enhance the circularity of food packages.
- A research segment
which focuses on selected generic cases and tackles the following topics:
- evaluation of the impact of the packaging composition on the mechanical recyclability of the packaging. Hereby, the aim is to evaluate the mechanical recyclability of foil to foil for secundary or tertiary (food) packaging and primary non-food packaging applications.
- evaluation of the mechanical recyclability of mixed PP streams (i.e. generic cases).
- evaluation of repetitive mechanical recycling of foil to foil.
- defining recycling limits i.e. tolerance level of barrier material for efficient recycling.
- evaluation of these recycling limits to ensure that the packaging functionality can still be guaranteed for the selected food products.
- at the request of the Industrial Advisory Board: evaluation of the recyclability by implementation of a case study at a sorting or recycling company.
The output of this project should facilitate decisions regarding the design of future packaging and other currently used multilayer plastic food packaging materials.
This project targets packaging producers and converters, food companies as well as sorting and recycling companies.
We are still looking for companies for the Industrial Advisory Board. Please contact us in case you are interested.