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Flexible laminates within the circular economy

  • Thoden van Velzen, Ulphard
  • de Weert, Lisanne
  • Molenveld, Karin
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2020
Wageningen University and Researchcenter Publications
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This report focusses on flexible laminated packages that are composed out of multiple polymer types and their impact on the recycling chains. Approximately 3-4% of the packaging products used in Europe is a laminated flexible packaging film. By nature, these films are either more difficult to recycle than mono-material packaging products, or even impossible to recycle. In the Netherlands roughly 65% of the laminated flexibles are discarded with the mixed municipal solid waste and 35% are collected in separate collection schemes for lightweight packaging wastes. After sorting the laminates are distributed over the various sorted products; roughly 60% ends up in the sorted product MIX, 25% in the sorted product FILM, 10% in the various sorting residues and 5% in valuable sorting products like PP and PE where they may hinder recycling of these valuable sorting products. Current and future options for the waste management of multi-material laminated flexible packaging films include mechanical-, chemical- and organic recycling. Next to technical feasibility and technical hurdles there are various practical and economical limitations and acceptance issues that presently limit recycling of flexible laminates. Most stakeholders involved in plastic packaging are committed to develop a more sustainable, circular plastics industry. Despite the willingness of industry to move to sustainable and recyclable packaging products there are numerous challenges with respect to flexible laminates for packaging applications. Strategies to improve the end-of-life options for flexible laminates can be categorised in four main categories; avoid the use of laminates, redesign the laminates, redesign the collection & recycling scheme or improve the sort-ability and recognisability. As a first step (agreement on) a precise definition of recyclability is needed to allow evaluation of the recyclability of laminated flexible packages. This implies that a test method is needed to verify if newly developed laminated flexibles are recyclable.

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