The initial characterisation of the European waste stream composition is almost done. The first insights will be published in a report in March, in which the different multi-layer food packaging (MLP) formats currently found in the flexible packaging waste stream are analysed by different means. A manual sorting of the waste into around 20 different categories comprising frozen food, dairy, meat and fish but also pet food or secondary packaging, will give clarity on the packaging waste origin. Based on detailed examinations, a pie chart with the shares of the different materials in the stream can be set up. Moreover, representative samples will be looked at under the microscope which will bring the actual layer structure of the films to light.
This study will give unprecedented insights on the current waste collection and sorting streams. It will allow for the identification of multi-layered packaging material that hampers high quality material recycling and point out the origin of the waste. Starting from there, the improvements and developments aimed at in CIRCULAR FoodPack can tackle the sortability of the packaging, its design and the recycling process itself. By incorporating markers which “lead” the packaging into the right sorting fraction, more homogenous waste streams can be achieved. Additionally, a film design with less different materials but same protective functionality can enhance such waste streams. With the set-up of an optimal recycling process cascade based on the results of this study, the newly designed packaging materials but also the current multi-layer material will recycled into high quality recyclates.
Figure 1: Microtome cuts of flexible packaging waste samples, every colour showing another material