In order to ensure that fibre based multi-materials are collected and recycled throughout Europe at competitive levels and costs, we will focus on five main pillars. These pillars encompass the entire life cycle of the recycling process of fibre-based multi-material packaging.
Recycling of paper fibres
PolyAl recycling (barriers and closures)
Collection is a pre-requisite for recycling. The specific collection system in place in a member state determines the subsequent recycling steps. In Europe, there is a diverse landscape of waste management and collection systems and our aim is to successfully scale up the recycling of fibre based multi-material packaging within these varying systems.
Sorting is the process used to determine the quality of the fibre based multi-material packaging entering the recycling process. We will work with operators across Europe to optimise sorting using existing technologies and available equipment as well as exploring future sorting technologies such as digital watermarking, visual recognition and optical tracers.
During the recycling process, dedicated paper and board mills turn used packaging into fibre pulp. Following this process, the recovered fibres are then used to make new materials such as mainly corrugated cardboard or tissue paper.
Our objective is to secure and increase the recycling capacity of used beverage cartons. Next, we will aim to increase the recycling capacity of other paper-based multi-material packaging types. To ensure this happens, we will closely monitor new technologies and work with existing recycling facilities to scale up the volume of materials which can be recycled. The attractiveness of our used packaging for recyclers is closely linked to enhanced sorting methods which ensure the highest quality products enter the system to be recycled.
Polymers and aluminium (polyAl or PEAL) recycling
Pulping the used beverage cartons results in a stream of pulp and rejects made up of caps, closures and barriers. We need to significantly scale up the recycling of this reject stream. We are currently exploring several technologies and new initiatives for processing of polyAl. Depending on the technology, cleaning and separation process, this polyAl can be used directly for end-market applications in injection moulding. For example automotive components, packaging and bottle caps, and components for compounding. In instances where the recyclers can separate the polymers from the aluminium, they are able to sell high-quality mono-material end-products like r-HDPE, r-LDPE and r-aluminium.
The final phase, valorisation, involves investigating how the value of all the recycled products can be maximised. Because the output and quality from the different initiatives may vary, end markets will also vary. New enhanced recycling methods such as selective extraction or solvolysis are currently being tested and we will validate whether these can be a valuable addition to existing mechanical recycling.
PolyAl raw material is tested on chemical and mechanical properties to define the best fit end markets.