Joining forces to improve recycling of plastic films

Joint Industry Project ‘ProLiFeX’ launched

No less than 30 to 40 percent of plastic packaging waste from households consists of film, the recycling of which is technically and organizationally very complex. New film packaging is almost always made from virgin plastics. The challenges lie at various points in the value chain: ensuring a constant supply from the waste stream, removing interfering materials, adequately addressing heterogeneity in the new films, and making this recycling economically viable. In order to find a solution to these challenges, cooperation between chain partners is crucial.

Attero, TUSTI, Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), Dow Benelux, Oerlemans Packaging and Pokon Naturado have joined forces as a consortium to carry out technological research into a closed plastic film chain, aimed at ultimately reducing demand for virgin plastics. TU/e is involved through professors Jaap den Doelder and Remco Tuinier, who will make use of a postdoc for their part of the research. The research is gaining shape in the project ProLiFeX: "Post-consumer Recycling Of L(L)DPE in Flexible EXtrusion". Each partner will contribute the necessary expertise from its own role in the value chain.

The research has three objectives:

1. The development of a competitive granulate flow of constant and sufficiently high quality

Attero will shred plastic film from household PMD waste in its new Polymer Recycling Plant (PRP), wash it hot and cold and recycle it into granulate. TUSTI is a knowledge partner in the field of the quality required to produce a circular film and will provide the laboratory scale testing facilities to produce granulate and test its relevant properties. Attero will make adjustments to its processes to achieve the right quality.

2. The development of a competitive recycled plastic film

For the recycled plastic to become competitive, it needs to be: (1) mechanically strong enough for the application (fertilizer/potting soil packaging); (2) sealable; (3) not heavier in relation to the cost of the waste management fee paid per kilogram of product whereby there is no incentive to use recycled material; (4) no more expensive to produce; (5) not necessarily snow-white on the outside; (6) stable so that the end product can be stored for at least 1 year.

Project partner Oerlemans Packaging will produce new films containing Attero's regranulate supplemented with virgin PE from project partner Dow. Oerlemans Packaging, Dow and TU/e will design specific formulas for both mono and multilayer films. Dow will perform experimental analyses of the Attero granulate and its mixtures with selective other materials. This will serve to investigate the quality, properties and consistency as well as the contingent variation.

3. The development of circular packaging for consumer products with the highest possible percentage of recycled content

Project partner Pokon Naturado will test the films produced by Oerlemans Packaging on a fertilizer packaging line. The test will then also take place on multi-layer film packaging for potting soil where requirements are higher regard to stretch and sealability. The R&D department of Oerlemans Packaging will investigate the physical properties, including printability, together with Pokon. TU/e will carry out additional research and disseminate the knowledge gained in this project in relevant media.

The knowledge gained from the collaboration project will enable the consortium partners to identify packaging with a high percentage of recycled content that is suitable for large-scale production in order to further reduce theCO2 footprint of film packaging. The ProLiFeX project has a duration of two and a half years and is being made possible by a Joint Industry Project grant of €495,000.