EU has defined new and ambitious targets for circular economy and recycling of materials. This includes packaging materials.
The FuturePack project develops know-how on technologies and requirements to reach these targets for plastics.
After the project kick off in 2017, all work packages and institutes are now activated and post doc’s students have been employed.
The “Packaging Design for Recycling” work package deals with technology to enable increased recycling through material simplification and quality improvement of recycled materials.
At Norner we have made extensive lab work related to the quality of recycled materials. This includes studies by our own team as well as a Post-doc who had additional support from BSc students and an MSc thesis. We would like to highlight some interesting findings from this work.
In a recent study at Norner, we collected all rigid plastic packaging waste from all Norner employees for seven weeks. The collected packaging was sorted into relevant fractions of material and quality. The collected materials fractions were; 17% PE, 37% PP, 23% PET, 8% PS and 15% other, a distribution which is in line with the statistics of Green Dot Norway. The rigid PE fraction included 87% bottles and 13% caps & closures. The PP fraction included 68% injection moulded cups/trays, 19% thermoformed cups/trays, 7% caps & closures and 6% bottles.
The PE and PP fractions were washed, compounded and thoroughly tested in order to identify critical factors for improving the quality of recycled plastics. Some key findings are:
The majority of HDPE bottles are transparent or white and can be recycled to a high-quality product.
Good sorting and quality control is important for stress crack performance in HDPE recycling.
Coloured materials create more quality issues for both PE and PP.
PP has more differentiated material performances and new technology for better separation is required for optimised specifications.
Another study analysed the leaching of chemical substances from commercially available recycled materials. Recycled materials can be used for various applications ranging from less critical products like flower pots to critical products like food packaging. Several applications need to have a high purity and very low amount of leaching chemicals.
Packaging materials like PE and PP contain some but very low amounts of food approved additives in order to increase their functionality and durability. Additional chemicals will be included in the packaging from pigments and inks, laminating adhesives or labels - including pressure sensitive adhesives.
Chemical migration was tested according to guidelines of the EU food contact regulation (EU 10/2011) and both overall and specific migration were evaluated as well as non-intentionally added substances (NIAS). Key findings were:
The overall migration was on a low or moderate level and within the requirement of the regulations.
Additives and monomers were in line with the regulations.
Several well-known NIAS from additive degradation were found.
Some recyclates contained phthalates which is potentially carcinogenic.
The project continues to the end of 2020 with more information to come.