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 adhesion of these layers, separation to polymer level is not always possible, hindering their mechanical recycling. Therefore, most of these multilayer packages are incinerated after use with energy recovery.
Both Europe and Belgium have stated ambitious objectives for the recyclability of food packages. 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 consists of
- 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
focusing on selected generic cases
The output of this project will allow the industry to make informed decisions when designing future multilayer plastic food packaging materials.
The Research segment will
- evaluate the impact of the packaging composition on the mechanical recyclability of the packaging, with the aim to evaluate the mechanical recyclability of foil to foil for secondary or tertiary (food) packaging and primary non-food packaging applications.
- evaluate the mechanical recyclability of mixed PP streams (i.e. generic cases).
- evaluate repetitive mechanical recycling of foil to foil.
- define recycling limits i.e. tolerance level of barrier material for efficient recycling.
- evaluate 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: evaluate the recyclability by implementation of a case study at a sorting or recycling company.