British companies collaborate to recycle flexible packaging

7 December 2014 (Last Updated December 7th, 2014 18:30)

Several companies in the UK have collaborated for a project to improve the recyclability of flexible packaging and divert more away from landfill.

Several companies in the UK have collaborated for a project to improve the recyclability of flexible packaging and divert more away from landfill.

The two-year project Reflex, which is being led by Axion Consulting and backed by Innovate UK, will create a circular economy for flexible packaging by involving the complete supply chain.

Companies such as Amcor, Dow Chemical Company, Interflex Group, Nestlé UK, SITA Holdings UK, Tomra Sorting and Unilever UK Central Resources will join Innovate UK and Axion in the project.

Polymer producers, packaging manufacturers, waste management firms and recyclers will also be involved in the project.

Axion director Roger Morton said: "This project aims to remove the barriers preventing flexible packaging being recycled, thus enabling recyclers such as Axion and SITA to change the supply chain, create a circular economy in flexible packaging and divert it from landfills.

"Polymer producers, packaging manufacturers, waste management firms and recyclers will also be involved in the project."

"To achieve this, innovative recyclable flexible package designs and materials are required, where all the materials used can be reprocessed together.

"Recycling these materials is still very technically and commercially challenging."

Research has commenced into how flexible packaging can be collected, sorted and reprocessed into high-quality recycled plastic pellets for use in a wide range of products.

The market is expected to follow a similar model to that of plastic bottle recycling and will take at least ten years to mature to a point at which more than 50% of flexible packaging is diverted from the waste stream.

Flexible packaging, such as plastic bags, confectionery wrappers, frozen food bags and pouches, account for around 32% of consumer plastic packaging in the country.

However, almost all of this 556,000t produced annually ends up in landfill. By contrast, 58% of plastic bottles are recycled.