Sustainability, Alternative material, Circular Economy

Diversity is key: with recycling materials

28/06/2021 | 2 min read
Konrad Wasserbauer

When it comes to materials, Greiner Packaging believes in diversity, and with its goal to include as much recycled material in its products as possible by 2025, material diversity is key.

Therefore, much of the afternoon on the first day of the virtual Innovation Days 2021 was devoted to different materials, including (r-)PP and (r-)PET which the following article will focus on.

Packaging the future with sustainable plastic materials

At Greiner Packaging, we have understood that in order to make plastic packaging sustainable, innovation is needed – mainly in two aspects where we, as converter, play a decisive role. The first is design for recycling, the second is the incorporation of recycled content.

“Currently, the annual plastic demand in Europe is around 15 million tonnes, 40% of which is plastic packaging. Of that, around one third is sent back to recycling, and around 5 million tons of recycles are produced annually in Europe. Around one quarter of that is used for packaging again. So, using this cascade of numbers, and having the vision of a closed loop, recycling – meaning from packaging to packaging again – we instantly see the size of the gap, the length of the journey ahead, and the important role behavior change and innovation plays. In that context, it's not about avoiding plastics, it is about avoiding plastic waste, and we are deeply convinced that as plastic packaging proves to be the most sustainable solution in many of our applications, this will remain the predominant material. So, we would like to call for a fair and effect-based discussion that also includes food waste, carbon footprint, and all the other aspects that packaging has to deliver”, Florian Aschermayer, Global Senior Project Manager Circular Economy at Greiner Packaging and Konrad Wasserbauer, Circular Economy Director at Greiner Packaging stated.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

“When it comes to avoiding plastics waste, it's the clear task of our innovation to follow the basic principles of the waste hierarchy, which is in very simple words, reduce, reuse, and recycling.

There are multiple end of life options. The first is littering or landfill, which we have to avoid. A huge portion also goes to incineration, which is better than littering – but we lose the material from the stream in this linear model. It is better to close the loop. Mechanical recycling is one option and this starts with the collection and sorting of the packaging waste, but there is some volume reduction before new packaging can be made from it. For some special materials, such as PET, it is possible to obtain food grade material.”

“An alternative to this are chemical recycling technologies which we see as a long term replacement for incineration and a supplement to mechanical recycling. The material quality is basically equal to virgin material, as it's the same monomers that we use, and therefore we also have the same food grade permissions.”

 

Watch the full live session here!

Please note: In order to watch the live session you need to login (and register) first; registration is still possible, even though the event is over.

Closing the loop with r-PET

In a following session devoted to recycled PET (r-PET), Greiner Packaging’s r-PET experts Peter Fessl and Günther Pahlitzsch discussed the material, its recyclability, and the availability of recycled content.

They explained that PP, PS and PET are the three virgin materials for food packaging, that PP is the material of choice for the majority of Greiner Packaging’s customers, while PET almost doesn’t exist in markets such as dairy.

“Until now, there was a clear allocation of materials to specific food markets. PS for dairy packaging; PP for dairy and non-dairy food packaging; and PET for non-dairy food packaging, such as salads, fine food, spreads and, of course, drinking bottles. However, this is now changing, and the driver for that change is recyclability.”

PET is the pioneer in recycling, as it is easy to recycle and even available in food grade. This is triggered by circularity and by the shift from linear to circular economy, and it shows that mechanical recycling of plastic is possible even for food grade.”

Peter Fessl, Business Unit Manager r-PET

“Until now r-PET had not been suitable for use in the dairy industry which uses high-temperature steam sterilization to disinfect cups before filling, but Greiner Packaging has developed a new PET HTS® cup that is heat resistant up to the sterilization temperatures in dairy filling lines. Beyond dairy applications, this innovation also applies to food applications such as dried soups or ready meals that are filled up with boiling water before consumption.”

 

Watch the full live session here!

Please note: In order to watch the live session you need to login (and register) first; registration is still possible, even though the event is over.

The r-PP Challenge

In a session devoted to the challenges around using recycled polypropylene (r-PP), Florian Aschermayer and Konrad Wasserbauer gave an update about the current situation for r-PP, and discussed the benefits of mechanically recycled r-PP. They also presented projects which have already been implemented, examined the availability of material, and gave an outlook of Greiner Packaging’s view of the future of r-PP.

As an example of the use of mechanically recycled r-PP, they talked about the K3® laundry detergent box which Greiner Packaging produces for Henkel, which incorporates 50% r-PP. Talking about chemical recycling, they showed two examples: tubs and lids for Unilever’s KnorrTM bouillon powder, made from 100% ISCC certified circular PP; and a cup for a Swiss dairy brand which includes 30% ISCC certified chemically recycled PP.

Chemical recycling of PP is a long-term replacement for incineration and a supplement to mechanical  recycling. Most producers of PP are working on chemical recycling, and the plants are already in operation. The material quality is equal to virgin materials and the first world-scale plants are expected by 2025.

Konrad Wasserbauer, Global Director Circular Economy

Watch the full live session here!

Please note: In order to watch the live session you need to login (and register) first; registration is still possible, even though the event is over.

Related articles