Key industry players join forces to recycle PE-based barrier pouch into new high-quality PE pouches suitable for repeat recycling to help drive a circular economy
HORGEN, Switzerland – September 23, 2021 – Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics, a business unit of Dow (NYSE: DOW), together with HP Indigo, Reifenhä user, Cadel Deinking and Karlville, announce the successful delivery of the first-of-its-kind pouch-to-pouch mechanical recycling concept, enabled by a unique value chain effort.
The approach uses a multi-stage process to contribute to a circular economy for digitally printed pouches. Starting with a polyethylene (PE)-based barrier food pouch designed for recyclability, the project team have used mechanical recycling and deinking to create a high-quality dishwasher MDO-PE1 pouch containing 30 percent recycled contents and being itself suitable for recycling.
In a next step, the team is working on a digital product passport pilot to allow for recycling-relevant packaging properties to be recorded and to make the pouch identifiable for high-quality recycling within post-consumer waste management.
Optimal recycling output designed from the outset
Delivering the high-quality PE-pouch has required several steps in a coordinated process with each team member applying their experience and capabilities collaboratively:
“The requirements for plastic packaging products have never been more complex than today. And we have modified and enhanced our Reifenhä user production lines to enable films and packages not just to be economical and functional, but to meet the vast demand for recyclable packaging based on mono-material structures”, commented Ralf Wiechmann, Head of Film Innovation at Reifenhä user:
“For this project we’ve broadened our machinery expertise to co-extrude the new resins on our highly flexible EVO 9-layer blown film line and produce PE-based packaging films at fast line speeds. This project shows that we can successfully both produce recyclable packaging, according to Recyclass and CEFLEX guidelines, and use recycled materials in high value applications if we collaborate effectively along the value chain.”
“To create the new pouch, HP reverse-printed the recyclable MDO-PE film on the HP Indigo 25K Digital Press with the dishwasher pouch artwork to have it ready for lamination to the film using recycled resins at Dow’s Pack Studios,” added Itai Shifriss, Head of Indigo Business Supplies at HP. ”Sustainability is a key strategic growth area for HP customers and HP, and in order to drive the circular economy we collaborate with leading value chain partners.”
“Thanks to Dow’s Pack Studios and a team of world-class scientists, we could apply our full expertise and testing capabilities to make our resins work in this proof of concept,” explained Laura Evangelio, senior technical service and development specialist at Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics. “The first PE-rich pouch was designed for recyclability with up to 5% EVOH in the total structure for barrier functionality, and Dow’s innovative resins provided a remarkable stiffness-toughness balance, low-temperature sealability, adhesion to extruded barrier layers and excellent bubble stability. For the second PE-based pouch we used a high-performing solventless adhesive to enable the lamination of the MDO-PE film to the PE-film containing recycled resins from the first pouch. The project is not only a triumph in our industry’s sustainability efforts but a true example of focused scientific teamwork.”
“To produce the recycled PE resins for the second pouch, we used our deinking technology to achieve the best outcome,” said Pablo Cartagena, Business development manager at Cadel Deinking. “The deinking process is key because it effectively removes ink from the plastic surface to obtain a plastic with similar characteristics to the raw virgin material which helps to provide high-quality pouch-to-pouch recycling. We are very happy to collaborate closely with all these leading companies and to demonstrate that Cadel’s deinking technology is considered ‘crucial’ to achieve circularity in plastic.”
“The Karlville pouch machine is one with the most compact footprint on the market, designed for extremely low set-up waste and quick change-over, perfectly suitable for recyclable materials,” said Gustavo Guzzi, EMEA Sales Manager from Karlville. “We are proud to be part of this project to manufacture a high-quality PE-based pouch which is itself already challenging. But to allow for recyclability is amazing, and with the right project partners it is now within reach.”
Next step: closing the loop for traceability
As a further evolution of the project, the companies are working to add digital traceability to the pouches in line with the R-Cycle initiative, a cross-company initiative to develop an open and globally applicable traceability standard for sustainable plastic packaging. The aim of this initiative is to automatically record recycling-relevant packaging properties during production by providing a digital product passport and to pass them on through the value chain. Using special markings, usable packaging can then be identified in the recycling process and sorted into single-type fractions. This is the key to obtaining high-quality recyclates in order to continue efforts to close the loop. R-Cycle is being driven by several major stakeholders in the plastics industry, including Reifenhä user, which is contributing the technology to the pouch-to-pouch concept.
“Dow is engaged to drive the adoption of PE-based packaging designed for recyclability, which works in recycling and recovers the value of the initial use as shown in this project,” concluded Jaroslaw Jelinek, global marketing manager for oriented PE technologies, Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics. “Through Pack Studios, Dow is contributing to industry-scale testing and production capabilities to accelerate the development of such projects globally. This announcement represents the latest in our efforts to address both climate change and plastic waste with our extended sustainability targets to protect the climate, stop the waste and close the loop.”