A project aimed at improving the recyclability of flexible packaging has been recognised at European sustainability awards.
The REFLEX project, a collaborative R&D venture involving high-profile partners and led by UK-based Axion Consulting, was described as an “industry-leading, exemplary model of collaboration,” by Tim Sykes, the Editor of Packaging Europe Magazine, the publication behind the awards.
The collaborative project involves high-profile global brands, Nestlé UK Ltd and Unilever UK Central Resources Ltd, as well as major stakeholders across the value chain. These include the Dow Chemical Company, the converters Amcor Ltd and Interflex Group; and waste management and recycling specialists SUEZ and TOMRA Sorting Ltd.
Research so far has focused on exploring and evaluating alternatives to previously difficult to recycle multi-layer films, which are potentially more suitable for recycling and yet still deliver the performance requirements and technical properties needed for products ranging from confectionery to detergent.
Another success includes optimisation of NIR (Near Infra-red) sorting technologies to detect and separate mixed polyolefin (PP and PE) packaging, such as sweet wrappers, crisp packets and bread bags. This has broadened what can be sorted and separated for recycling from mixed post-consumer flexible packaging.
“REFLEX is addressing the crucial question of how to develop technologies that increase recycling of flexible packaging. It is a great example for the entire industry of how brand owners can join forces with leading players across the value chain to solve common problems faster,” said Sykes.
The REFLEX project is conducting further studies, which will look into how flexible packaging can be reprocessed into high-quality recycled plastic pellet suitable for use in the manufacture of a wide range of products.