One of the key topics raised by stakeholders these days is circular economy. No doubt there is a push in the market to replace virgin materials with recycled ones in an attempt to move from the linear “take-make-dispose” culture to the infinitely circular society where no new materials are needed.
There are many important elements to consider before moving towards recycled content in food packaging. Current challenges related to recycled content in beverage cartons are the risk of contamination from unknown chemical substances in post-consumer waste* and the availability of recycled materials.
Elopak will look into introducing recycled content in our cartons provided food safety regulations and technical feasibility allow. It is a topic often discussed with multiple stakeholders. The goal is to start by focusing on introducing recycled content in the barrier layers. In 2020, we did not use any recycled content material in our primary packaging. However, some of the secondary packaging of our cartons contains recycled fibers.
*: regulated by EC/1935/2004 on materials and articles intended to come into contact with food, and EC/2023/2006 on good manufacturing practice for materials and articles intended to come into contact with food.
Elopak is taking part in a long-term research project called “FuturePack”. The project was initiated by the Norwegian green dot organization and aims to find sustainable and economically viable solutions to technological, societal, political and environmental challenges in order to develop plastic packaging materials for the future. The project started in 2017 and is supported by the Research Council of Norway. There are 13 partners in the project, 8 from industry and 5 from institutes/universities. Although slightly delayed due to Covid-19, some progress was made during 2020.
After a comprehensive mapping of potential feedstock, the recommendations are to use wood, straw and plastic waste. A novel two-stage pyrolysis process is to be developed for direct co-pyrolysis of biomass and plastics waste into ethylene and propylene. This will result in a range of components together with ethylene and propylene. 3-layer films with recycled PE in the core layer and virgin PE in the outer layers have been made and tested thoroughly both in terms of migration, processing properties and odour.
The project also includes an LCSA study which provides insight into environmental and societal factors related to bio- vs fossil-based polymers as well as the impacts of the pyrolysis process. The model will be further developed using data provided from the project.