Returnable crates are used to pack and protect various products like fresh produce, packed food and other consumer goods from production to grocery store. They ensure efficient transportation, excellent protection and reduced product waste rates. Hence, they are a sustainable logistic enabler. Such crates are typically made of food contact approved polypropylene (PP) due to its excellent properties, durability and purity which make it ideal for contact with food.
LYCRO is a Norwegian based company specialised in mould design and injection moulding with various crates and boxes in their portfolio under the brand of NOPLA. Norsk Lastbærer Pool (NLP) have developed and are operating a logistic solution for returnable transport crates in an efficient and environmentally friendly way that optimise the supply chain for suppliers and retailers in the Norwegian Grocery sector. NLP reuse the returnable crates in their pool for up to ten years.
LYCRO, as the producer of crates for NLP, proposed the brave idea of recycling discarded PP crates from NLP and other similar pools back into new crates and thereby drastically improve the sustainability of these. The main objective of the project is to establish closed loop recycling of crates into new food approved crates for the food and grocery sector. They have a high ambition to offer this solution to enable improvement of their customers environmental position.
Polypropylene is the second most used plastic in the world and in Europe 4 Mtonn/year are used in food contact applications. Crates made of Polypropylene can be recycled and used to make new crates. However, before being used for food contact applications the plastic requires high purity and to be recertified for food contact to ensure the material has no risk for the consumers.
Despite the high demand for virgin polypropylene for food contact applications, there is at present no commercial availability of recycled polypropylene compliant for food contact. Therefore, LYCRO and NLP have joined forces in the RECReATE project and invited Norner to be the R&D partner. The project is owned by LYCRO and supported with grants from the Norwegian Research Council. The target of the project is to enable the incorporation of recycled materials in food contact applications by investigating and developing commercially relevant processes compliant with EU food and safety regulations.
RE-CReATE will tackle the challenges from a holistic perspective looking into raw material sourcing and traceability, recycling and purification process and material development as well as on product design using LCA to validate the environmental friendliness of the new solutions. Furthermore, it will develop technology and methodology for analysis and documentation which fulfils the strict regulations for food contact approvals.
RE-CReATE will develop new systems and sustainable technology and products which will be implemented by LYCRO. This will improve the environmental footprint for NLP and their customers in the grocery sector.
The returnable crate market is very large in European terms with a high potential for closed loop recycling with food approval. The project will establish LYCRO as a key supplier of sustainable and circular rigid food packaging from returnable crates.