We use alternative materials

From recyclates to bio- and agro-based materials

We’ve been using scrap from our own production – industrial recycled plastic – for a long time. This is an obvious step, because it’s easy. But using recycled materials recovered from consumer refuse isn’t quite so straightforward. Demand for this material is high, which often makes it difficult to obtain. Moreover, the quality of this recycled material still varies. 

At the same time, it’s subject to strict legal requirements – especially when it comes to packaging for food. Hardly any materials are approved for this purpose at present. In Europe, we follow the assessments of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This organization determines which materials are suitable for producing food packaging. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carries out this role in the US.

In other words, there are still a lot of challenges that need to be overcome. But we say, challenge accepted! Right now, we’re working on the following material streams:

Material streams

r-PET is currently the only material that has received a positive EFSA opinion for food packaging. Mechanical recycling is already an option for r-PET. We think that chemical recycling will also become a possibility in the next four to five years. This process can yield r-PET of an even higher purity. 

Greiner Packaging products: 
  • Bottles 
  • Lids
  • Trays
  • Blister packaging
Availability: 
  • Non-food products: Readily available
  • Food products: Limited availability
r-HDPE has an FDA recycling number but hasn’t received a position opinion from the EFSA. Packaging for cosmetics can already be produced from r-HDPE. The material isn’t approved for contact with food in Europe (so far). One exception is milk bottles in the UK, where there is a dedicated recycling loop. 
Mechanical recycling is already an option for r-PE. Chemical recycling is expected to become an option in the next four to five years. 

Greiner Packaging products: 
  • Shampoo bottles
Availability:  
  • Non-food products: Readily available (with quality limitations)
  • Food products: Available on a very limited basis (only as a closed loop for milk bottles in the UK) 
  • r-PE from biomass is available
r-PP doesn’t have a positive EFSA opinion. Mechanical recycling is already an option for r-PP. Chemical recycling is expected to become an option in the next four to five years. A combination of plastic that is recycled via mechanical methods, together with a coating, will likely be used to package food in the future. The key advantage of PP is that it’s lighter than PET and has better physical characteristics for cups. 

Availability: 
  • Non-food products: Readily available (with certain quality limitations, for example, in terms of colors)
  • Food products: Bio-based PP from organic waste is available and has a positive EFSA opinion
Currently, r-PS doesn’t have a positive EFSA opinion. Mechanical recycling is possible, and chemically recycled PS is expected to be available from 2021. Mechanically recycled PS with a coating is currently used for packaging. 

Greiner Packaging products: 
  • Technical components    
Availability: 
  • Non-food products: Readily available (with quality limitations)
  • Food products: Not available yet, but expected to be available in larger quantities in the future based on chemical recycling
Fossil-based plastics are made from oil. Non-fossil-based plastics can come from a wide range of sources. These include biomass, organic refuse, cellulose, starch, sugar cane, etc. The raw material base is broken down according to its generation: 
  • First-generation raw material: Primary fruit from the production process, such as kernels of corn. Dedicated acreage is required for this purpose.
  • Second-generation raw material: Secondary fruit from the production process, such as leaves and stems, which are considered waste. This doesn’t require dedicated acreage. 
  • Third-generation raw material: Organic waste and production waste. Dedicated acreage isn’t required.
Non-fossil plastics can be broken down into various categories – such as vegetarian, vegan, and halal. They are just as sustainable as recycled materials. But non-fossil materials aren’t all biodegradable. Several alternative materials have already been successfully tested here at Greiner Packaging.

Availability: 
  • Bio-based PP and PE with a positive EFSA opinion are already available.
  • PET made from 23–25 percent agro-based materials is available and contains sugar cane from Taiwan.

Related articles