European flexibles project stakes a claim in circular economy

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

Packs made from flexible packaging need to be made easier to recycle
Packs made from flexible packaging need to be made easier to recycle

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A consortium of European businesses across the flexible packaging supply chain has set up a new project to “advance better system design solutions” to facilitate recycling, while also developing tools to calculate food waste savings as a part of their overall environmental impact.

The CEFLEX (Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging) consortium consists of materials, converter, consumer goods and other companies, including Unilever, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Amcor, Constantia, Mondi, DuPont, Dow Europe and Borealis. Its aim is to demonstrate flexible packaging’s relevance to the circular economy.

Consultant and project co-ordinator Graham Houlder said: “We will be ensuring there is an infrastructure for collecting flexibles, and also designing them to make recycling easier.”

‘Make recycling easier’

Aluminium foil interests are well-represented within the group. But Houlder said: “The project is about all types of flexible packaging which are currently not commonly recycled.

“That includes those monolayer films that are typically extracted at the first stage of any recycling process. How do you ensure that the material can be identified?”

He admitted that, when it came to laminates, the issues became more complex. Finding simpler, or more easily separable, structures was not necessarily the answer, he said.

“Barrier materials tend to be very resource-efficient, and it is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater,”​ Houlder explained.

‘Save on the costs associated with refrigeration’

“They can save on the costs associated with refrigeration, for example, and we need to factor that in. We are working on a tool to calculate the added value provided by flexible packaging in avoiding waste.”

In May, CEFLEX member Unilever announced it was setting up a plant in Indonesia to recycle sachets, using the CreaSolv process.

Jointly developed with Germany’s Fraunhofer IVV institute, CreaSolv is said to be an energy-efficient process of dissolving, separating and precipitating mixed polymers.

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