Food grade recycled PP may be on the horizon

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Recycling

A research project that aims to ascertain the feasibility of recycling polypropylene (PP) into food grade packaging is underway in the UK.

The UK government funded Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which is charged with ensuring that the UK meets EU requirements on reducing waste, said the new scoping study will be conducted by Axion Consulting, in partnership with Greenstar WES, Fraunhofer IVV and Pira Consulting.

PP makes up a significant proportion of plastic food packaging including yoghurt pots, margarine tubs and sauce bottles; WRAP claims that the ultimate objective of this project is to develop a process to enable PP to be recycled and thus make it a more sustainable type of packaging.

High density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles are increasingly recycled back into new plastic bottles and into food grade packaging too, but the infrastructure to recycle PP into food grade packaging does not exist, even though it is regularly recycled into industry plastics application such as buckets and pallets.

According to Axion Consulting, the study will test whether the food grade HDPE recycling process already in existence can be used to recycle PP so that it meets food grade standards.

Demanding process

Paul Davidson, special advisor on plastics at WRAP said that the agency recognises that retailers, brand owners and packaging companies all want PP to be available for food grade packaging:

“However with its many different grades and colours used in packaging, developing such a process will be demanding. We are pleased to be working with experts in this area to help scope this work, and enable the industry as a whole to move towards more sustainable packaging.”

The scoping study ends in August, said WRAP, with its findings set to be published in the autumn.

Supply restrictions

However, according to the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA), while a drive for greener packaging is ensuring a rapid demand increase for recycled materials in products, the supply currently remains limited for materials such as recycled PET (rPET).

And BSDA spokesperson Liz Bastone claims that governments have to do more to do to ensure the use of recycled packaging remains viable.

"It is essential that recycling rates grow and as part of the BSDA's sustainability strategy, the industry is keen to work with national and local government to further improve kerbside recycling schemes and recycling infrastructure,"​ Bastone stated. "Clear, simple and consistent schemes will encourage consumers to recycle and will improve collection rates."

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