Demand for sustainable packaging solutions boosting rPET

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Recycling Polyethylene terephthalate

Post consumer recycled material (PCR) derived from recycled PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottles is fast replacing the polymer polypropylene in the rigid plastics packaging market, claims Finnish packaging firm Huhtamaki.

Andrew Lea, General Manager of Consumer Goods Huhtamaki UK, told that the recently announced closure of the company's site in Portadown in Northern Ireland was the net result of Huhtamaki's shift towards more recoverable and renewable polymers like rPET.

Polypropylene is a thermoplastic polymer which can be heated to high temperatures.

It is similar to polyethylene but is harder and tougher.

The Portadown site had been primarily involved in the manufacture of thermoformed polypropylene thin wall food containers for products such as coleslaw and desserts.

Sustainable packaging The closure of the Portadown plant comes in a climate of growing environmental concerns among both consumers and governments leading to higher demand for sustainably-sourced products, while soaring costs for plastic packaging have also forced companies to assess other options.

Few recycling centers will accept polypropylene due to its very low rate of recyclability.

Product innovation Huhtamaki said that it was one of the first companies to introduce thermoformed food packaging made of rPET.

It launched thermoformed packs in August 2007.

The range was developed for a UK customer Bakkavor who is using it for packing salads for Tesco.

The thermoformed containers are made from material that contains between 40 and 70 per cent post consumer PET making the packaging more environment friendly.

Huhtamaki says as more additional reprocessing capacity comes on stream in the UK, more and more products can be packaged in recycled PET.

Company losses Huhtamaki is also ceasing rigid plastic consumer good packaging production at its other UK facility in Gosport.

It cited outmoded plant infrastructure, increases in manufacturing and energy costs as well as decline in volumes as the reasons for the withdrawal.

However, the manufacturing of foodservice products at the Gosport site will continue.

Huhtamaki's consumer goods business unit in the UK is loss-making with annual net sales of around €30 million.

Costs related to the planned closure will have an approximately €8 million one-time adverse impact on Group 2008 EBIT.

The annualized earnings improvement is expected to be €3-4 million.

Huhtamaki stated that it will continue to serve the UK consumer goods customers with specialty products, mainly paper-based, from other Huhtamaki facilities.

Packaging waste targets Research commissioned by the Waste and Resource Action Programme (Wrap) in 2006 found that 86 per cent of UK respondents felt it would be good if packaging contained recycled plastic.

According to the packaging recycling targets set by the European Commission for the 25 EU member states a minimum of 60 per cent of packaging waste must be recovered or incinerated and between 55 and 80 per cent of packaging waste must be recycled by the end of 2008.

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