Analysis of the multi-layer food packaging in European waste streams
The work of CIRCULAR FoodPack started in June 2021. The first 6 months of the project are largely dedicated to the characterisation of the European waste composition. Current sorting plants for post-consumer plastic packaging typically include several steps to separate mono-material plastics from mixed packaging waste, leading to a residue rich in multi-layer food packaging (MLP). This MLP fraction can represent 20-30% of all post-consumer plastic waste and is destined for incineration. Therefore, different MLP formats, which are currently found in the waste streams of France, Belgium and Germany will be thoroughly analysed. These types of waste multi-layer materials will be classified into categories defined by e.g. their layer structures, the applied polymers, adhesives, but also for example size, shape, and product type.
Furthermore, we aim to identify the sorting fractions, in which MLP occurs at all, and which sorting methods and technologies are decisive for this. Therefore, within the next months, the characterisation of the current sorting fractions will start in parallel using novel photonic and hyper spectral measurement technologies (Sensor-Based-Specification SBS) as an off-line characterisation approach. These approaches will provide substantial information on the presence of the different polymers and other constituents and will be used to suggest suitable recycling process parameters.
The sorting quality and the percentages of MLP and mono-material packaging in the different European waste streams are determined to assess the principle capability of these materials to be sorted. This will help to identify how much MLP impedes the overall material recycling when included in a sorting fraction (due to, for instance the low share of the target polymers, or non deinkable printing) and by which processes MLP can be separated from the targeted mono-material fraction. This work forms the basis of the project by delivering highly relevant and new data about the European Waste composition and sorting fractions. Moreover, it also provides the first material samples for the upcoming technological developments such as the Tracer-Based-Sorting, deodourization, deinking, and novel flexible packaging materials. ©SUEZ