Leading global packaging and paper group Mondi, in cooperation with chemical producer BASF and the Dutch company COROOS, one of the biggest European companies in the preservation of fruits, vegetables and pulses for premium A-brands and private label products, have cooperated on a state-of-the-art pilot project. Together they produced a stand-up pouch that is safe for food contact partly made with raw material which was derived from chemically recycled plastic. Until now, recycling plastic has chiefly been mechanical, limiting the scope of plastics that can be recycled and limiting the number of products that can be created with recycled material, in particular for the strict legal European regulations in place for food packaging.
Mondi believes that packaging should be sustainable by design, using paper where possible, and plastic when useful. For food protection and extending shelf life, plastic is often the best choice because of its barrier properties. These requirements make it difficult to use mechanically recycled plastic due to potential impurities and plastic flaws that can occur in the layers, limiting the applicability for food contact.
“BASF is working on advancing the chemical recycling of plastic waste, because this will make it possible to process and reuse plastics that are currently difficult to recycle such as mixed plastics. This prototype packaging which is based on pyrolysis oil derived from waste plastic shows that the life cycle of consumer plastics, including multilayer packaging, could become a closed loop,” explained Christoph Gahn, who is responsible for the polyamide business at BASF.
As a leader in the flexible packaging market, Mondi partnered with BASF to produce this virgin grade material into a multi-layer laminate for food packaging for COROOS private label products and their own A-brand Servero. In the manufacturing, 100% of the fossil feedstock was replaced by pyrolysis oil derived from mixed recycled material for one of the inner layers
(oriented polyamide, OPA-12 m). In total 12% of the packaging weight is made of ChemCycled material. The recycled material was allocated via a certified mass balance approach.
Graeme Smith – Sustainability Manager for Mondi Consumer Packaging – explained more about the pilot project: “It is important to show proof of concept when establishing breakthrough developments, and for chemical recycling it is an essential part of the roadmap to commercialising this process in the future.”
Sustainable solutions are not just a priority for Mondi, but across the entire value chain: “COROOS is partnering in this project because we care about sustainability and are looking into different options to improve our footprint, e.g. by using packaging from recycled materials, packaging materials being recyclable and/or by being re-usable” shared Elke Schroevers, the Marketing Manager of COROOS. With this development, the way is paved for plastic waste to become a new resource for flexible packaging while replacing fossil fuels.
ChemCycling is the name of the project with which BASF is further developing the chemical recycling of plastic waste: Plastic waste that is difficult to recycle, such as mixed or contaminated plastics, is converted into a pyrolysis oil through thermochemical processes by partners. This secondary raw material can be used as input in BASF’s production process, thereby partly replacing fossil resources, to manufacture numerous chemical products. Using a certified mass balance approach, the share of recycled raw material can be mathematically allocated to the final certified product. To move from the pilot phase to market readiness, various technological, regulatory and economic issues still need to be resolved.