New food packaging recycling plant pushes boundaries

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Recycling Tetra Pak
This new process can recycle the polyethylene and aluminium polycomposite from food packaging. Picture from Tetra Pak
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The world’s first POAL recycling plant producing Ecoallene will come online in Italy in September.

The plant will take recovered polyethylene and aluminium polycomposite (POAL) food packaging (commonly referred to as TetraPak) and turn it into a new recyclable material suitable for use in automotive, construction, giftware and other markets.

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The new material is said to be easy to colour and is ‘slightly glittered’ as it will contain some aluminium particles.

The new process, which has an initial capacity to recycle 7,000 tonnes of recovered POAL a year, has been jointly developed by engineering company AMUT and Italian startup Ecoplasteam.

The new process relies mainly on the polycomposite part of the packaging. Until now only the cellulose fraction has been reliably recovered.

Once the cellulose has been recovered, the remaining material is baled and send to the Ecoplasteam facility. It is then washed to reduce the presence of any remaining paper fibres. It is then mixed, filtered and granulated before being turned into Ecoallene pellets for use as a raw material.

Amut says the final Ecoallene pellet can be extruded or injection moulded like a standard polymer.

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