DSM and APK Cooperate on Expanding Recycling of Multilayer Food Packaging Films
APK has developed a unique process that addresses end-of-life for multilayer PE/nylon 6 packaging films.
Within the last few years, we have reported on the fast-growing trend towards all-PE multilayer flexible food packaging and the sustainability advantage it can offer in terms of recyclability. Tackling multilayer barrier films that consist of a combination of PE and nylon 6—where the former acts as a barrier for moisture and the latter as a barrier for oxygen thus significantly extending the shelf life of the packaged food—is now a mission for recycling technology company APK of Merseburg, Germany and Royal DSM, which supplies specialty engineered nylons including basic nylon 6 through DSM Engineering Plastics.
The new partners point out that the PE/nylon 6 barrier package cannot be produced with a mono-material PE film, since the layer thicknesses to achieve sufficient barrier properties would become too high. The addition of nylon 6 in the multi-material solution reduces the total layer thickness significantly and improves the mechanical integrity of the film resulting in less rupture of the films during transportation and logistics. This leads to a lower food waste percentage and thus to a significantly better carbon footprint in a Life Cycle Analysis.
Now, APK and DSM are also able to address “End-of-Life” for multilayer PE/nylon 6 packaging film using APK’s Newcycling process. This unique solvent-based physical process makes it possible to recover high-quality re-granulates with properties close to virgin plastics, from complex mixtures and multi-layer composites (so-called multilayer barrier packaging).
“Moreover, the Newcycling process is highly cost-efficient and offers a competitive, sustainable material source. The re-granulates, generated from multilayer PE/nylon 6 packaging waste, can be used again in demanding flexible packaging which contributes to the target of a circular economy,” explains Florian Riedl, APK’s head of business development.
APK is building a plant for recycling multilayer PE/nylon 6 packaging, using the Newcycling process, which is scheduled for startup in fourth quarter.
A 2008 ‘green’ startup company, APK has used this technology to recycle pre- and post- consumer plastic waste and to custom compound Mersalen & Mersamid ReCompounds made of LDPE, HDPE, PP, nylon 6 or combinations for extrusion, blow molding and injection molding. The company and other strategic partners have also been testing Newcycling processing of plastic automotive waste. Its 613,500-ft2 pilot plant in Merseburg is the company’s first Newcycling plant.
Another APK cooperative project in its drive for a circular economy of sustainable flexible multilayer packaging is with consumer goods company Henkel, polyolefins manufacturer Borealis and German-based packaging manufacturer Mondi. Mondi has tested the suitability of recycled LDPE from APK for multilayer films at its R&D center and has carried out successful preliminary tests in a pilot plant on site.
In this project, the LDPE virgin material previously used in flexible detergent packaging was largely replaced by APK LDPE recycle. Mondi uses the reclaimed material in the coextrusion and lamination of PE film with printed PET film to form a composite duplex structure, while maintaining the external appearance of the detergent bag.
“The joint project meets the EU’s strategy, adopted in January 2018, which calls for all plastic packaging in Europe to be recyclable by 2020, It also underscores the feasibility of reusing flexible packaging waste in multiple cycles of a truly circular economy that preserves valuable resources and avoids waste without restricting product performance,” says Timo Muller, key account manager for Henkel at Mondi. Commercialization of the project and its intended market launch in early 2019 are currently being evaluated by the project partners.
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