Coca-Cola Enterprises, Tesco and Nestlé UK & Ireland are among the companies being funded by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to develop viable approaches for collecting flexible packaging materials containing aluminum to improve the recycling and remanufacture of the material.
Flexible laminate packaging — such as toothpaste tubes and pet food sachets — often contains valuable aluminium and various recyclable plastics, which can be difficult to collect and separate for viable recycling.
Along with recycling and resource management companies Enval and SITA UK, LRS Consultancy is leading the consortium, which will undertake the research to develop and trial new methods of recovering and treating flexible this type of mixed-material packaging.
LRS says the initial study will explore ways to increase the amount of flexible laminate packaging that is collected and recycled throughout England, and assess the feasibility of a range of collection and communication approaches for households and commercial facilities within different regions of the country.
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Dependent on the results of the scoping study, the consortium may go on to conduct trials on collection solutions for flexible packaging and provide insight as to how consumer behavior and attitudes influence collection models. Various collection methods would be assessed to ascertain the most effective solution for different demographics and locations. The outcomes of the research would enable SITA, Enval and other industry stakeholders to evaluate the potential to include flexible packaging in mainstream recycling collections and assess the cost benefit of the different approaches trialed.
“Brands are increasingly using flexible laminate packaging to help preserve their products for longer, reduce the amount of material used in the manufacturing process and ‘lightweight’ their packaging. However, sometimes such initiatives result in unintended challenges for the resource management industry to manage and process these mixed-material products post use,” said LRS Managing Director Dee Moloney. “The consortium is uniquely positioned to deliver this research and we are delighted to have received a good response from a broad range of interested parties who are keen to support the project.”
It is estimated that more than 160,000 tons of flexible laminate packaging containing aluminium enters the UK marketplace each year, including such items as food and beverage pouches, toothpaste tubes and pet-food sachets.
If the trials prove successful, and viable collection and recycling schemes are implemented, they could lead to significant carbon emission savings and benefit the secondary commodity market. Flexible packaging is becoming increasingly widespread and the global market is estimated to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.1 percent, from 2013 to 2018**1**.
Dr Carlos Ludlow-Palafox, Managing Director at Enval, said, “Aluminium is a hugely valuable and versatile material so it's important that we capture and recycle as much of it as possible. We are delighted to be working with collection companies and brand owners to find the best way to collect flexible laminate packaging and establish increased recycling rates for this material as part of our commitment to the UK’s circular economy.”
Earlier this month, a group of public interest organizations spoke out in opposition to the recently launched $100M “Closed Loop Recycling” fund. The groups called on Coca-Cola, Walmart and the seven other companies involved with the fund to instead support proven policies to boost recycling, such as extended producer responsibility, which holds consumer goods companies financially responsible for the collection of their packaging post-use (rather than having taxpayers and local governments foot the bill) and meeting recycling targets.
1 Flexible Packaging Market by End-Use (Food, Beverage, Personal Care & Pharmaceutical), Material (Polypropylene, BOPP, CPP, Polyethylene, EVOH, PA, BOPET, PVC, Aluminum, Paper, Cellulosic) - Global Trends & Forecast to 2018 Published by MarketsandMarkets in Nov 2013.