Collective research projects: Reviewing gaps in the recycling of multilayer flexible food packaging

Recyclability and sustainability are conflicts in multilayer flexible food packaging, where material combinations (polymers, paper, aluminium) intend functionality. To increase the sustainability of multilayer flexible packaging through recyclable solutions, systemic and technical obstacles need to be considered. A holistic redesign approach, addressing food protection and the packaging’s end of life (collection, sorting, recycling) is essential to improve these already sustainable packaging solutions. To this, current collective research projects at the University of Applied Sciences, aim to closely link science and industry, promote research in the field of sustainable packaging and provide solutions to recycling goals of the European Union.

by Bauer, Anna-Sophia; and Krauter, Victoria

Sustainability of food and packaging are issues in the global discussion on how to reduce unintended climate and environmental changes (UN 2015). For many consumers, packaging seems to be an unnecessary companion of food, harming ecosystems. Without any doubt, littered items from mismanaged waste pose a threat to the environment. However, it is often neglected that packaging plays an important role in the protection of food and allows reducing food loss and waste and herewith-associated environmental impacts. Still, one prerequisite is that adequate waste management is given (PlasticsEurope 2018). An optimal point of packaging, as depicted in the so called Soras Curve or Innventia AB Model illustrates this issue: In the case of insufficient packaging, food deteriorates and indirectly induces environmental harm, as re-sources, which ran into its production, are lost. In the case of too much packaging, waste at end of life is increased (EC 2011). Until now, multilayer packaging is offering protection at this optimized point - lightweight solutions and tailored protection (Barlow & Morgan 2013). Against the background of a circular economy, the requirement of protection and sustainability, especially in the context of reduced material use, does not suffice, and recyclability is focussed recently (EC 2018).

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published: Recy & DepoTech, 11|2020
Keywords: Plastics