Italian flexible packaging firm Gualapack has partnered with Norwegian sensor-based equipment manufacturer Tomra to pilot a monomaterial polypropylene (PP) spouted pouch.

The companies will test the recyclability of Gualapack’s spouted pouch in the rigid PP stream.

Gualapack’s pouch combines monomaterial laminates and semi-rigid multi-layer components. The solution was proven recyclable after extensive testing last year.

Gualapack and Tomra will now study the possibility of automatically and effectively managing the pouch in the rigid PP stream.

Different percentages of Gualapack pouches have been added to the rigid PP waste as part of the pilot’s initial steps.

These were processed with Tomra’s sensor-based sorting machine, AUTOSORT, which proved the pouches to be made from PP material, with more than 80% redirected to the rigid PP stream.

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By GlobalData

After this, a waste PP bale with 5% more pouches and a bale containing no pouches were sent through all the standard recycling process steps for comparison.

Gualapack sustainability manager Michelle Marrone said: “At Gualapack, we were busy tackling the challenge of designing a monomaterial spouted pouch that had to resist hot-filling, pasteurisation, and maintain its barrier properties 12 months on the shelf.

“But at the same time, I knew that to be monomaterial by design was not enough! It was equally important to prove our circularity by demonstrating that our pouch could be correctly identified as PP, sorted, processed and extruded on an industrial line.”

Tomra Circular Economy business development senior vice-president Jürgen Priesters said: “After development of the new pouches, and to determine whether these could be sorted with optical sorters, we added a significant amount of them to a combined separate source and mixed waste stream sorting plant for automated sorting.

“The result was very good detection and accurate separation rate of all pouches. A subsequent washing and recycling trial showed that the Gualapack mono-material pouches could be easily recycled into standard products.”

Both Tomra and Gualapack are members of Circular Economy of Flexible Packaging (CEFLEX), a European consortium that represents the entire flexible packaging value chain.