Axion Consulting is leading a collaborative project to improve the recyclability of flexible packaging.
The two-year REFLEX project, which is funded by Innovate UK (formerly known as Technology Strategy Board) aims to create a circular economy for confectionery wrappers, detergent pouches and other flexible packaging.
Companies involved in the project include Unilever UK Central Resources, Nestlé UK, Axion Consulting, SITA Holdings UK, Amcor, Dow Chemical Company, Interflex Group and TOMRA Sorting.
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Flexible packaging such as plastic bags, confectionery wrappers, frozen food bags and pouches makes up nearly a third of consumer plastic packaging in the UK. However, virtually all of this 556,000 tonnes of material ends up in landfill.
Axion director Roger Morton said: “This project aims to remove the barriers preventing flexible packaging being recycled, thus enabling recyclers such as Axion and SITA to change the supply chain, create a circular economy in flexible packaging and divert it from landfill.
“To achieve this, innovative recyclable flexible package designs and materials are required, where all the materials used can be reprocessed together. Recycling these materials is still very technically and commercially challenging.”
The project will look at innovative inks, new barrier polymers, novel packaging designs and a new automated sorting technique.
With the backing of Nestlé and Unilever, industry-wide guidelines for recyclable packaging will be agreed and disseminated.