This technology allows packaging companies, plastic article manufacturers and brand owners from different industries and markets to collaborate and achieve the truly circular use of plastics. Circular use of plastics is a sustainable solution to reduce the negative impact of plastics on our environment. However, if recycled plastics are not successful, circular use of plastics will to a large extent remain as a wishful theory.
Currently, the wide use of virgin plastics allows different material recipes for different applications. However, the model for recycled plastics will more likely require a single recipe for different applications. In addition, material degradation after each reprocessing has further limited the opportunities of recycled plastics. Most of post-consumer recycled plastics today can only be used by low-end applications with limited demand.
This technology is developed to technically solve the above two challenges for recycled plastics. As the solution for flexible packaging, the technology uses standardised building blocks to make various flexible packaging. The materials used in this technology are also suitable to be recycled for a broad range of disposable and durable rigid plastic applications.
This technology comprises of two components. The first component is a coextruded asymmetrical film based on selected virgin polymers. This film acts as a standard building block. These building blocks can be laminated in different permutations and combinations to form a packaging material. This brings about various levels of barrier performance, mechanical stability, and aesthetic options for the packaging.
The second component is a plastic alloy that can be produced via recycling of the first component or via reactive extrusion blending of selected virgin polymers. It provides a unique processing window which allows the fast crystallization of plastic articles after the forming. Next to the processing advantages, the technology’s unique combination of polymers results in the sufficient mechanical strength for most common plastic applications and adds new interesting physical, thermal, (di-)electric and barrier features that a single polymer cannot deliver. The branched molecular structure of this material enables minimal loss in melt strength and mechanical properties even after repeated reprocessing.
The first component of the technology may be used as a high barrier film for flexible packaging and industrial applications. The second component may be used as a plastic alloy for extruded and/or stretched articles, sheets and foams, high performance textiles, blown moulded (barrier) containers, injection moulded or thermoformed durable parts, and FDM 3D printed articles.
Through this technology, the circular use of plastics would become feasible – if the non-technical challenges can be in parallel properly tackled. The circular use can remain in the disposable use of plastics e.g. from food to non-food packaging, or from flexible to rigid packaging. It can also go beyond. For example, a transparent film or bottle can be recycled to make textiles for outdoor clothing; the used clothing can later be recycled into a dark rigid packaging; and the dark packaging may be eventually recycled back as geotextile to protect soils.
Circular use, if becomes feasible, will be the key new request for future plastic applications. This trend will only be further enforced by more stringent waste management regulations. On the other hand, the circular use of plastics is fully dependent on how successful the recycled plastics can be, which is the big challenge for current plastic materials. This technology significantly enhances the chance for recycled plastics to be successful.
Both components of this technology are easy to scale up. They can be produced with conventional plastic processing technologies and their raw materials are the conventional polymers common for food applications.
On the material performance level, new features may be achieved by combining the benefits of different polymers. On the operation level, this technology can enhance the cost efficiency by simplifying material complexities and by repeated recycling.
It also creates opportunities for companies from different industries to collaborate. By making plastics truly circular, it can sustainably enhance the brand values of these companies.