Circular FoodPack aims to enable the circular use of plastic packaging, addressing the most sensitive product category: food. The main function of food packaging is the protection of the product during transport from manufacturer to consumer and maximize the food shelf life, thus reducing food waste and its carbon footprint. Therefore, food packaging has to fulfil high requirements, like being light-weight, impermeable, sufficiently tear-resistant and printable, with an appealing haptic and not release chemicals into the food in quantities that are harmful to human health.
To fulfill all these requirements, most food packaging applications are made of plastic films, composed by complex multi-layered materials. However, such Multi-Layer Composite (MLC) laminates cannot be efficiently recycled by state of the art processes and thus valuable resources are lost, as this waste is mainly incinerated or landfilled. According to EU legislations and EFSA standards, it is not allowed to use recyclates from non-food plastic materials in newly produced food packaging applications because these recyclates do not meet the necessary requirements with regards to odor or contaminants, but to date, non-food and food packaging waste streams cannot be separated. With 2 Mio tons of MLC affecting the recyclability of 17.8 Mio tons of food packaging due to their composition and unidentifiable origin, the targeted material streams are significant and the expected impact of this research is substantial.
That is where Circular FoodPack ties in, targeting food packaging (dry food such as packed creamer, cocoa and coffee powder) as well as personal (e.g. face masks) and home care packaging (e.g. detergents, wipes). The project partners investigate newly developed Tracer-Based and Sensor-Based Sorting systems which allow for reliable sorting with new tracers and detection mechanisms. Once sorted, the packaging material will be washed, deodorized, the layers delaminated, deinked, dissolved and purified with the CreaSolv® Recycling Process and mechanically recycled. The recycling strategies and generated secondary (raw) materials will continuously be assessed with regards to food and environmental safety, social acceptance, quality, processability, economic feasibility and legal compliance. The recyclates will be incorporated into new high-performance mono-material food packaging that is following eco-design principles and will be easy to recycle at post-consumer stage. A true material cycle is created, contributing to the EU ambitions of a carbon-neutral society by 2050!
From June 2021 to November 2024, CIRCULAR FoodPack receives a contribution of EUR 5.36 million from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme under Grant Agreement Number 101003806. Horizon 2020 is the European Union’s Research and Innovation funding programme for 2014 – 2020.