Onward 100% circular packaging: TKI PCR Seal project on developing post-consumer waste produced flexible circular packaging by means of mechanical recycling

Onward 100% circular packaging: TKI PCR Seal project on developing post-consumer waste produced flexible circular packaging by means of mechanical recycling

April 13, 2023

The plastic packaging recycling rate of Netherlands (57% in 2020) has already met the targets of the EU Directive 2018/852, which requires the member countries to attain recycling rates of 50% in 2025 and 55% in 2030. However, currently (2018) more than 85% of the recycled plastic waste in the Netherlands are not qualified to be used again as materials but incinerated. Therefore, to establish a more sustainable society, the ‘Nationaal Programma Circulaire Economie 2023 – 2030′ aims to use 50% recycled plastics in the market and to reduce 1 Mton CO2 emission in the usage of recycled plastics by the year of 2030.

Driven by this stimulation, a group of pioneer players in the circular plastics value chain have executed an R&D project “TKI PCR in Bubble Foil” supported by “Top sector chemistry” to understand the performance of flexible circular packaging produced from post-consumer waste. The ultimate goal being drafting a design guideline on developing qualified flexible circular packaging produced from post-consumer waste.

The participants of this project are:

Brightlands Materials Center (BMC, Geleen, the Netherlands) is a joint innovation center between TNO and province of Limburg focusing on developing sustainable solution of polymeric material and products, in this project BMC uses its expertise to support the other partners in circular packaging development.

Pregis LLC (Heerlen, the Netherlands) is a producer of inflated packaging films, i.e., bubble foils and air cushions. As a front runner in PCR applications in protective packaging and the main industrial partner and sponsor of the project, Pregis took responsibility for input from practice and performance of the application tests. The results of the project have been implemented in their own industrial processes. In this project Pregis LLC develops circular inflated packaging films that includes the materials selection, film production and on the patterning, sealing and inflation of the films, supported by BMC.

GCR (Barcelona, Spain) develops and produces high-performance and sustainable plastic solutions, serving brand owners and plastic processors looking for recycled and recyclable plastics and mineral-based compounds. In this project, GCR provides high-quality post-consumer waste for circular inflated packaging film development.

SABIC (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) is ranked among the world’s largest petrochemicals manufacturers. In this project SABIC provides necessary (virgin) resins to extrude inflated packaging film, as well as its expertise to support application development.

One of the crucial design factors for circular inflated packaging film is the sealing performance  that determines the capacity of inflated packaging on retaining the air inside. Such performance is influenced by the content (recipe) of the film, the film thickness, and the parameters of the sealing process. The first factor is important considering the variations in content from batch to batch of post-consumer waste. To tackle this challenge, the project consortium utilized material models to predict the sealing performance of circular flexible packaging fabricated with a certain content of post-consumer waste, film thickness, film structure under certain sealing process parameters. These design factors influence the thermal history of the film under sealing and consequently determine the sealing performance.

The result of the material model is demonstrated in figure 1. A good correlation between material model prediction and measurements had been established.

Figure 1: The predicted seal temperature history (red) and measured seal temperature history (blue)

The material model also shows both the film thickness and heat capacity of the film shows a positive effect on the sealing performance of polyethylene based inflated packaging film, since a thicker film and a larger film heat capacity enables the film to cool down slower, thus enabling better sealing performance.

BMC is continuously developing this material model by means of  machine learning to tackle more complex film recipe. BMC Circular Packaging expertise team is willing to support partners with challenges in realizing a suitable sealing performance of circular packaging, your enquiry is highly welcomed.

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