Enval Limited, in partnership with LRS Consultancy (“LRS”), SITA UK, Nestlé UK & Ireland, Coca-Cola Enterprises and Tesco UK, has received funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to scope out viable approaches for collecting flexible packaging materials containing aluminium, such as toothpaste tubes and pet food sachets, to improve recycling and the remanufacture of aluminium.
Flexible laminate packaging often contains valuable aluminium and various recyclable plastics, which can be difficult to collect and separate for recycling viably.
Funded by Defra’s Action Based Research programme, LRS is leading a consortium, which will undertake research to develop and trial new methods of recovering and treating flexible plastic and aluminium laminate packaging.
The initial scoping study will explore ways to increase the amount of flexible laminate packaging that is collected and recycled in England, and assess the feasibility of a range of collection and communication approaches for households and commercial premises within different regions of the country.
Dependent on the results of the scoping study, the consortium may go on to implement trials to test collection solutions for flexible packaging and provide insight as to how consumer behaviour 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 trialled.
Dee Moloney, Managing Director, LRS Consultancy, said, “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.
“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.
“LRS, as lead, has a strong track record of managing action-based, resource efficiency research projects and, in particular, for delivering those with new recycling service provision.”
It is estimated that more than 160,000 tonnes 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%, from 2013 to 2018(*1).
Enval is a technology developer that has developed a unique process for recycling plastic laminates, containing aluminium. Dr Carlos Ludlow-Palafox 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.”
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