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Creating flexible packaging from virgin grade material derived from plastic waste is now taking a step towards reality in a pilot project called ChemCyclingTM

Leading global packaging and paper group Mondi, in cooperation with chemical producer BASF and COROOS, one of the biggest European companies in the preservation of fruits, vegetables and pulses for premium A-brands and private label products, have cooperated on a state-of-the-art pilot project. Together they produced a stand-up pouch that is safe for food contact partly made with raw material which was derived from chemically recycled plastic. Until now, recycling plastic has chiefly been mechanical, limiting the scope of plastics that can be recycled and limiting the number of products that can be created with recycled material, in particular for the strict legal European regulations in place for food packaging.

Mondi believes that packaging should be sustainable by design, using paper where possible, and plastic when useful. For food protection and extending shelf life, plastic is often the best choice because of its barrier properties. These requirements make it difficult to use mechanically recycled plastic due to potential impurities and plastic flaws that can occur in the layers, limiting the applicability for food contact. “BASF is working on advancing the chemical recycling of plastic waste, because this will make it possible to process and reuse plastics that are currently difficult to recycle such as mixed plastics. This prototype packaging which is based on pyrolysis oil derived from waste plastic shows that the life cycle of consumer plastics, including multilayer packaging, could become a closed loop,” explained Christoph Gahn, who is responsible for the polyamide business at BASF.

As a leader in the flexible packaging market, Mondi partnered with BASF to produce this virgin grade material into a multi-layer laminate for food packaging for COROOS private label products and their own A-brand Servero. In the manufacturing, 100 % of the fossil feedstock was replaced by pyrolysis oil derived from mixed recycled material for one of the inner layers (oriented polyamide, OPA-12 mm). In total 12 % of the packaging weight is made of ChemCycled material. The recycled material was allocated via a certified mass balance approach. Graeme Smith – Sustainability Manager for Mondi Consumer Packaging – explained more about the pilot project: “It is important to show proof of concept when establishing breakthrough developments, and for chemical recycling it is an essential part of the roadmap to commercialising this process in the future.”

Sustainable solutions are not just a priority for Mondi, but across the entire value chain: “COROOS is partnering in this project because we care about sustainability and are looking into different options to improve our footprint, e.g. by using packaging from recycled materials, packaging materials being recyclable and/or by being re-usable” shared Elke Schroevers, the Marketing Manager of COROOS. With this development, the way is paved for plastic waste to become a new resource for flexible packaging while replacing fossil fuels.

Downgauging innovations yield thinner, more sustainable BIB films

One word, more than any other, is guiding Bag-in-Box (BIB) film purchasing decisions today: sustainability. Whether for wine, fruit juice or dairy products, the people in the buyer center – product and packaging managers, technical engineers and purchasing agents – are tasked with finding sustainable packaging solutions.

Fortunately for them, the Mondi Styria plant in Austria, has racked up more than 60 years of experience as market leader and technology innovator. When it comes to multilayer technical films that are thinner, lighter and more sustainable – and do not sacrifice any performance properties – the Mondi experts are always extending the boundaries of technological advancement. Now, they are launching a pair of next-generation films developed for multilayer BIB products used to package liquid food products and more.

Introducing … Styria Form Bar 50

“We have now determined it is possible to replace the usual 66- or 70-micron polyethylene film with a 50-micron film, and we are the first company to be able to offer such a product,” explains Günter Leitner, Managing Director at Mondi Styria. “Downgauging in this manner results in the use of about 25 % less material while also reducing transport weight and hence the overall carbon footprint.”

A current customer is already running trials of this new product, and says it has experienced no negative impact on machine performance and that no equipment changes have been needed to successfully run the film, Leitner notes.

… and Styria Form Bar 90 DW

Separately, Mondi now has also found a way to combine what is the industry-standard, two-ply film comprising a 70-micron polyethylene layer plus a 40-micron barrier layer into a mono-layer film that measures only 90 microns thick –– a reduction of nearly 20 %. Currently, Mondi provides its 70-micron film to customers who combine it with a barrier layer provided by another supplier to get the desired end result.

“Mondi, once again, is the first and only supplier of technical BIB films able to offer this type of mono-layer product,” says Leitner. “Since this thinner film also yields more running metres per reel this leads to enhanced efficiency and productivity for our customers.”

In addition to the previously noted sustainability advantages, this latest innovation greatly simplifies matters for customers, eliminating a step from the converting process, and allowing users to buy and store only one type of film instead of two.

Customers also will benefit from reduced machine setup time due to having to change out only two reels instead of four, and having to change two reels less frequently. All of this translates into greater productivity for the converter.

Additionally, both new films are suitable for both hot-fill (up to 85 ºC) and cold-fill applications, again offering increased convenience and flexibility to the users.