Food Grade Recycled PP
Nextek was commissioned by WRAP to work in partnership with the UK packaging supply chain, retailers, brand owners and the recycling industry to develop a viable process to recycle household Polypropylene (PP) packaging waste into recycled PP (rPP) approved for use in the manufacture of food packaging.
Focus was on developing a recycling process that could increase the decontamination performance to the standards required by EU regulations for food contact and that could cope with a wide range of PP packaging materials encountered in the post-consumer PP packaging stream.
Recycling a wide range of mixed rigid post-consumer PP packaging to food contact quality is more complex than the recycling of HDPE and PET bottles. Nextek approached this challenge by identifying and selecting a process that provided a high level of melt-phase decontamination in an extruder with a specially designed vacuum section that provided a large surface area for removal of volatile contaminants, followed by treatment in a heated high-vacuum degassing reactor.
This project has shown that the development of full scale processes that that can expand the recycling of plastic packaging to include rigid PP packaging along with HDPE and PET packaging in a closed loop system. Retailers and brand owners have supported the development of this technology because it has direct environmental benefits such as lower carbon footprint packaging, resource efficiency and diversion of packaging waste from landfill.
Further investigations by Nextek are focusing on improved automated sorting and separation of PP food packs from packs previously in contact with non-food substances. Nextek is now running large scale rPP trials and working with a number of packaging manufacturers to trial the rPP resins into a variety of moulded and thermoformed pots, tubs and trays.