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26 Aug 2021

Circular Packaging for direct food contact applications

CIRCULAR FoodPack aims to facilitate the circular use of plastic packaging addressing the most sensitive product category: Food. The project is funded for the topic ‘CE-SC5-24-2020 – Improving the sorting, separation and recycling of composite and multi-layer materials’ in support of the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. The projects funded therein are expected to develop new or improve existing innovative processes for the sorting, disassembly/separation, recycling and/or the introduction into manufacturing process of materials from products made of composite and/or multi-layer materials and assess the potential barriers for their implementation.

© CIRCULAR FoodPack I Design: IDF Kreativagentur – Jürgen Lindl

The projects aim to optimise value retention in the economy, rather than downgrading the composite or multi-layer materials for applications with low quality requirements, as compared to the value of the initial separate materials, especially for applications with high performance requirements. They shall further provide recommendations for the design of these applications, products or related materials, based on the lessons learned in the development of these processes, to enable an increase in volume and quality of reuse and recycling. In addition, these recommendations should cover requirements for product information to enable effective identification and management after use. The environmental impact (e.g. substitution of virgin plastics, water saving, impact on water quality), social impact (e.g. related to health and safety legislation) and cost of the innovative processes implemented should be assessed in a holistic way, taking the entire lifecycle into account. The projects are expected to provide evidence of the potential market impact that the proposed solutions could bring¹.

CIRCULAR FoodPack targets the food packaging sector, which constitutes of 87%² of all European flexible plastic multilayer-composites. Such composites are used to fulfil the high requirements for food preservation and safety. Since such material combinations are inseparable, the multi-layer composites cannot be recycled into high-quality materials by state of the art recycling technologies, which counteracts the intentions of a circular use. Instead, most multi-material composites go to landfill or energy recovery. Furthermore, the reuse of recyclates in food packaging applications is clearly restricted by EU legislation³. The potential presence of undesired substances in the recyclates hence requires appropriate methods of decontaminations.

Therefore, CIRCULAR FoodPack will further develop the Tracer-Based-Sorting systems to separate food from non-food packaging, enhance mechanical and physical recycling processes for purification and deodorization and eco-design innovative mono-material food and personal care packaging that will be easy to sort and to recycle. A thorough social and environmental impact analysis, as well as a market and consumer needs assessment will accompany the developments to set up a competitive business model.

To achieve these goals, the project will receive about 5.37 million Euros of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, the European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, under Grant Agreement Number 101003806. From June 2021 to November 2024, the CIRCULAR FoodPack consortium implement the ambitious project and contribute to the European Union’s efforts to achieve a green and prosperous society by 2050. Please find more details about the project in the first press release.

[1] H2020_CE-SC5-24-2020
[2] GVM Flexible Plastic Packaging Market in Germany and in Europe, 2016
[3] EU Regulation No 282/2008

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