Consumer goods giant Unilever has unveiled new technology that enables plastic sachets to be recycled. The technology has been developed in partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Germany.
The process, known as CreaSolv, was inspired by a method used to recycle old television sets, whereby brominated flame-retardants were separated from WEEE polymers. Through this method, plastic is recovered from the sachet and reused in the manufacture of new sachets.
Unilever says that it will make the technology open source so that other members of the industry can help to scale up its use.
Sachet packaging is one kind of plastic packaging that would benefit greatly from a recycling strategy and circular vision. While economically beneficial, enabling lower income families in developing markets to buy small amounts of products they need, instead of paying more for unnecessary larger quantities, it is problematic when it comes to waste.
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Typically made up of a laminated film of plastic and aluminium, sachets will often be improperly disposed of, with many countries lacking the infrastructure for recycling them. In addition, there has been no economic incentive to collect waste sachets, whereas larger plastic packaging can often be collected and returned for cash, resulting in billions of sachets being thrown away each year, either ending up in landfill or as litter.
However, through the CreaSolv process, researchers were able to recover, using the same amount of energy, six times the amount of plastic produced from new materials. Unilever plans to open a pilot plant in Indonesia later this year to test the long-term commercial viability of the technology. Indonesia currently produces around 64 million tonnes of sachets every year, with 1.3 million tonnes ending up in the ocean.
The company also says that it hopes to create a sustainable system change by setting up waste collection schemes to channel the sachets to be recycled. It is testing this by working with local waste banks, governments and retailers and is trying to empower waste pickers, integrate them into the mainstream economy and to provide a potential long term income, generating wider growth in the economy.
<p.commenting a="" all="" and="" are="" at="" away="" blanchard="" chief="" commitment="" david="" developing="" development="" ending="" help="" in="" just="" landfill="" launch="" made="" new="" oceans.="" of="" officer="" on="" once="" or="" our="" over="" problem="" recycling="" research="" sachets="" said:="" solve="" start="" technologies.="" the="" this="" thrown="" to="" unilever="" up="" used="" waterways="" we="" world="" year="">“There is a clear economic case for delivering this. We know that globally $80-120 billion is lost to the economy through failing to properly recycle plastics each year. Finding a solution represents a huge opportunity. We believe that our commitment to making 100 per cent of our packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable will support the long-term growth of our business.”
The announcement follows the company’s commitment to ensure 100 per cent of its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Unilever is working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative to rethink the future of plastics, with particular regard to packaging, and build momentum towards a more circular economy.