Research carried out by Materials Recovery for the Future (MRFF) has found that existing automated sorting technologies can be optimised to capture flexible plastic packaging, potentially producing a new stream of recovered materials.
The process is published in the Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) report, titled ‘Flexible Packaging Sortation at Materials Recovery Facilities’.
The research programme demonstrated that with sufficient screening and optical sorting capacity, flexible plastic packaging can be captured in a single-stream materials recovery facility (MRF).
During the first phase of the research, baseline testing, equipment testing, and several recovery facility trials were conducted to test existing sortation technologies regularly used in MRFs, including screens and optical scanners.
PepsiCo discovery and sustainability foods packaging research and development director Brad Rodgers said: "Flexible packaging has many positive attributes, highly efficient, great product protection, and low environmental impact.
“However, recovery has been one of its weak points.
"This study is shedding light on pathways that can be deployed to improve flexible packaging end-of-life options.”
US-based food, snack and beverage PepsiCo is a member of MRFF, which also includes Amcor, The Dow Chemical Company, LyondellBasell, Nestlé Purina PetCare and Nestlé USA, Plum Organics, The Procter & Gamble Company, SC Johnson, Sealed Air, and Target.
The collaboration also features Association for Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association (SPI), and American Chemistry Council.
The next phase of the RRS research will concentrate on sorting technology, economic feasibility and evaluating end-use markets for the recovered materials.
It will also focus on developing a recovery facility demonstration project in the future.