Emballator Innovation Centre challenges how many times Polypropylene can be recycled

“How can we make the plastic packaging value chain truly circular?”, that is the question Emballator Innovation Center asks themselves. Together with FTI (Swedish recycling association) and Svensk Plaståtervinning, Emballator are challenging old truths.

Production of virgin fossil-based plastic has much higher emissions than recycled plastic. But it’s important that recycled plastic has high quality, as close to virgin as possible.

When it comes to recycling methods, mechanical recycling is the first choice for Emballator. Why? It has the lowest carbon footprint. To understand how different contaminations affect the recycling process, Emballator Innovation Center are evaluating how plastic waste affects mechanical properties. Not only contaminations are evaluated, but the ongoing study also evaluates different process settings and steps in the value chain.

“Using mono-material solutions has for a long time been the Emballator way when possible. Being able to recycle material and use it again is important as well as challenging the general awareness that plastic only can be recycled 5-7 times. That is one of the driving forces,” said Mats Jeppsson Innovation Manager at Emballator and continues:

“We have been regranulating pure Polypropylene material in an extruder 60 times and then produced containers from the material with the result still being within the product specification.  Now we are testing injection moulded cans, sending them to a shredder and from the flakes producing new containers repeatedly. We add different contaminations to the material to find out what’s affecting the mechanical properties the most so we can redesign the packaging.”

During the process a lot of questions appear – is it the label, glue, carbon black, fillers, additives, EVOH, wrong polymer family or ink that affects the material? It might also be process parameters like temperatures during production or the cleaning process in the recycling plant or different filtration methods. To better understand the challenges Emballator Innovation Center collaborates with FTI (Swedish recycling association) and Svensk Plaståtervinning.

“Emballator is doing a very important and interesting research. Degraded quality is a fact when you recycle plastic packaging, but exactly what impact different design parameters have, is not fully investigated. Emballator has decided to analyse this further and that is good news for everyone who is interested in making plastic packaging more circular,” said Einar Ahlström at FTI.

”We are pleased that old truths are being questioned and that companies such as Emballator want to be involved and contribute to a circular use of plastic. The results from the tests so far are promising and show great potential for mechanical recycling. There are still many uncertainties about how different packaging components affect at different stages of the recycling cycle (eg in source separation, mechanical sorting, mechanical recycling and the application of recycled materials). If we work together through the value chain, we can find more reliable facts and improve recycling rates and the recycling quality of plastic packaging,” said Rickard Jansson at Svensk Plaståtervinning.

Emballator will be transparent with the result from the recyclability study and stakeholders are welcome to participate in a digital discussion regarding the findings and priorities next steps.

#Emballator #Innovation #polypropylene #sustainability #recycle

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