A European-funded project called CLIPP+, led by SKYMARK, a UK manufacturer of flexible films, has developed technology making it possible to successfully recycle printed films.
The project was originally established to create and introduce into the market cost-competitive environmentally friendly recycled polyolefin films that could be reused in non-food film packaging applications. The technology, based on the use of sc-CO2, was developed in a previous EU project and demonstrated the effectiveness of this technology in removing the contaminants and unpleasant smells associated with this type of printed recycled plastic materials.
According to Alan Heappey, Project Manager of Skymark, most waste printed plastic packs are presently considered to be non-recyclable, their use, he said being limited to “low-cost applications, energy recovery and landfill disposal”.
“We wanted to create added-value plastics via recycling from post-industrial waste by offering reprocessed PE film that provides optimal mechanical, aesthetic and thermal properties as a substitute for virgin polymers,” he explained.
The technology uses carbon dioxide as a cleaning and stripping agent in super-critical conditions. The recycled printed PE film is suitable to be used in various higher added value primary and secondary packaging applications such as film for wrapping tissue packs.
Since 2015, Aimplas, the plastics technology centre in Spain, and PureLoop, a member of the Erema group have been working with Skymark on the project, which has now reached the final months of development. Currently, the first commercial-scale recycling machine is being built, a testimony to the teamwork of the three partners.
“Thanks to the team, the concept of adding CLIPP+ technology to a reclamation machine has now become a reality,” said Heappy.
PureLoop is manufacturing the new, full-scale machine at its site in Austria. On completion, it will be installed at SKYMARK's premises in Scunthorpe, UK.
“Through strong collaboration, we believe we have jointly created a process that will contribute to the production of more sustainable packaging,” said Heappy. “The technology will increase the profile and capabilities of the polymer recycling industry, which is currently being steered by increasingly stringent legislation on packaging and packaging waste.”