How does the recycling framework explain flexible packaging?

A group of organizations representing the European flexible packaging value chain called on legislators to develop a recyclability framework that recognizes the unique challenges and opportunities of flexible packaging.
The industry position paper jointly signed by the European Flexible Packaging, CEFLEX, CAOBISCO, ELIPSO, the European Aluminum Foil Association, the European Snacks Association, GIFLEX, NRK Verpakkingen and the European pet food industry puts forward a “progressive and forward-looking definition” if the packaging industry wants to build a cycle Economic progress has been made and packaging recyclability is of utmost importance.
In the paper, these organizations claim that at least half of the primary food packaging on the EU market consists of flexible packaging, but according to reports, flexible packaging only accounts for one-sixth of the packaging materials used. The organization stated that this is because flexible packaging is very suitable for protecting products with minimal materials (mainly plastic, aluminum or paper) or a combination of these materials to enhance the protective properties of each material.
However, these organizations acknowledge that this function of flexible packaging makes recycling more challenging than rigid packaging. It is estimated that only about 17% of plastic flexible packaging is recycled into new raw materials.
As the European Union continues to roll out the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) and Circular Economy Action Plan (the organization expresses full support for both plans), targets such as a potential total recyclability threshold of 95% may exacerbate this challenge Flexible packaging value chain.
CEFLEX Managing Director Graham Houlder explained in an interview with Packaging Europe in July that the 95% target “will make most [small consumer flexible packaging] non-recyclable by definition rather than practice.” This is emphasized by the organization in the recent position paper, which claims that flexible packaging cannot achieve such a goal because the components necessary for its function, such as ink, barrier layer and adhesive, account for more than 5% of the packaging unit.
These organizations emphasize that life cycle assessments show that the overall environmental impact of flexible packaging is low, including carbon footprint. It warned that in addition to damaging the functional properties of flexible packaging, PPWD’s potential targets may reduce the efficiency and environmental benefits of raw materials currently provided by flexible packaging.
In addition, the organization stated that the existing infrastructure was established before the mandatory recycling of small flexible packaging, when energy recycling was considered a legal alternative. At present, the organization stated that the infrastructure is not yet ready to recycle flexible packaging with the expected capacity of the EU initiative. Earlier this year, CEFLEX issued a statement stating that different groups need to cooperate to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to allow individual collection of flexible packaging.
Therefore, in the position paper, these organizations called for the revision of PPWD as a “policy lever” to encourage innovative packaging design, infrastructure development and comprehensive legislative measures to move forward.
Regarding the definition of recyclability, the group added that it is important to propose a redesign of the material structure in line with the existing structure, while expanding the capacity and technology used in the waste management infrastructure. For example, in the paper, chemical recycling is labeled as a way to prevent “lock-in of existing waste management technology.”
As part of the CEFLEX project, specific guidelines for the recyclability of flexible packaging have been developed. Design for Circular Economy (D4ACE) aims to supplement the established Design for Recycling (DfR) guidelines for rigid and large flexible packaging. The guide focuses on polyolefin-based flexible packaging and is aimed at various groups in the packaging value chain, including brand owners, processors, manufacturers, and waste management service agencies, to design a recycling framework for flexible packaging.
The position paper calls for PPWD to refer to the D4ACE guidelines, which it claims will help adjust the value chain to achieve the critical mass required to increase the recovery rate of flexible packaging waste.
These organizations added that if PPWD determines a general definition of recyclable packaging, it will require standards that all types of packaging and materials can meet to be effective. Its conclusion is that future legislation should also help flexible packaging reach its potential by achieving higher recovery rates and complete recycling, rather than changing its existing value as a packaging form.
Victoria Hattersley talked with Itue Yanagida, Toray International Europe GmbH’s graphics system business development manager.
Philippe Gallard, Global Innovation Director of Nestlé Water, discussed trends and latest developments from recyclability and reusability to different packaging materials.
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Post time: Nov-29-2021