Circular plastic packaging: that is our goal!
As a packaging producer, we are also aiming for a more sustainable world. Sustainability is a top priority for us. It is one of our core values. For sustainable plastic packaging, recycling is of paramount importance.
What is important is that the old linear recycle life cycle of plastic is replaced by a circular model. Circular (or cradle to cradle) means that food packaging again becomes a 100% safe food packaging after recycling. So without residual waste or loss of quality.
Luckily, recycling techniques to make plastic circular are developing at a rapid pace. As a prominent packaging producer, Hordijk Verpakking closely monitors these developments. Apart from that, we are researching additional and alternative techniques ourselves.
Why are we still using plastic food packaging?
An important answer to this question: to counter food waste. To calculate the impact of (plastic) packaging, you check the ecological footprint of the entire product during its life cycle. So not only of the packaging itself, but also the product inside.
It is proven that plastic packaging counters food waste. Because the food is protected against contamination during transport and storage. Furthermore, it prevents food spoiling quickly and discolouring. This means a longer shelf-life and suitable for consumption longer, which means sustainable.
Emission of methane gas
Production of food costs a lot of water and energy. If the food then isn't consumed, it's a shame. The impact of food waste on the environment is huge: twenty times bigger than the impact of the packaging. For example, rotting food emits methane gas. Methane gas is a much more harmful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Between 25 and 30% of the food produced globally is wasted. Discarded food causes nearly 10% of all greenhouse gas emission on the planet. Plastic packaging partly counters food waste. As a packaging material, plastic has a positive effect on the environment.
Mechanical or chemical recycling?
From the sustainability perspective, mechanical recycling is preferred. It leaves the smallest ecological footprint. Because the further we go back to the original plastic building blocks during recycling (chemical recycling), the more energy it takes.
PET bottles are the most well known recycle stream. These bottles are almost entirely high-grade recycled mechanically in a mono stream. High-grade means that the material is used as a resource for the same kind of product after processing.
For example: a PET bottle contains soda and after recycling it is used as a PET packaging for a salad. This recycle stream is fully circular with the smallest ecological footprint.
Mechanical sorting processes
Advanced sorting processes are increasingly being applied in mechanical recycling. New techniques are: infrared, magnetism, artificial intelligence and watermarks to separate mixed streams.
Near infrared spectroscopy (NIR)
Is used when sorting from a conveyor belt. Each type of plastic has a different chemical structure, this ‘fingerprint’ is picked up by the sensors. Unfortunately, the NIR technique doesn't work with black plastic. That's why laser systems are sometimes used, they do recognise black plastic.
Magnetic Density Separation (MDS)
In this technique, plastic packaging is shredded into small pieces and then put into a bath of ferromagnetic liquid. With specially designed magnets, this liquid can be made heavier or lighter. This makes the shreds float at different heights, allowing them to be sorted. Which height per material? It depends on the density of the material.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI is increasingly applied in recycling. A camera system with a robot arm recognises and removes the decontamination and sorts it afterwards. A robot sorts 80 items per minute, nearly two times as much as a human being.
A watermark helps in recognising the type of plastic, which aids the recycling. The watermark helps to identify the type of plastic, and what it is used for. In this way, a large part of the collected plastic is reused for the same thing it was originally used for.
All plastic streams that are not suitable for mechanical recycling can be brought back into the chain via chemical recycling. It concerns plastic streams such as:
- Sorted mono streams that are too contaminated Or that are difficult for mechanical recycling
- Plastic that fails during sorting and recycling steps
- Mixed plastic streams
- Plastics with additives such as fragrances or colouring agents
In chemical recycling, the plastic is taken apart and reduced to its basic building blocks. It literally goes back to the base molecules.
Plastics consist of monomers that are connected into polymers. Which is subsequently melted down to make plastic. Chemical recycling reverses this process and turns plastic products back in to monomers.
Plastic waste is the environmental concern of our generation. But it doesn't have to be a concern for the next. We are 100% committed to that. With all new recycling techniques we are on our way to a circular future. A future in which plastic waste is seen as a valuable material for new purposes.
Do you want to know more about the recyclability of our products? Or are you interested in products made from recycled resources? Quickly ask for the options: firstname.lastname@example.org or 075 653 63 53.