Interface Polymers, located in Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK, has received a new £638,000 (€555,000) industrial research grant. The money will be used to investigate ways to reduce the amount of mixed plastic waste through development of recyclable multi-layer flexible plastic packaging.
The grant was awarded through Innovate UK's ‘Plastics Innovation: Towards Zero Waste' initiative.
Entitled ‘Polarfin-Blue: Compatibalisation of polymers to enable recycling', the grant-winning project will investigate the use of Interface Polymer's polyolefin compatibility and surface functionality using the Polarfin additive technology. This will support development of next-generation polymer alloys.
Multi-layer plastic films offer improved product packaging performance for industrial and household applications, extending product shelf life and reducing waste. However, the majority of flexible film packaging solutions currently available are difficult and costly to separate and recycle.
The Innovate UK funding will support development of commercially-viable and sustainable solutions to help reduce the amount of flexible packaging currently being incinerated or going to landfill.
Research will center on development of new, commercial grade version of the Polarfin-Blue additive materials, enabling compatibility between currently incompatible thermoplastics used in multi-layer packaging. Ultimately, this should deliver products which no longer require a complex and costly recycling solution.
Speaking about the planned research, Christopher Kay, chief scientific officer at Interface Polymers, said: “When current multi-layer plastic packaging is re-melted with virgin polymers for potential reuse, the incompatible plastics are repelled from each other. This creates voids in the mixture which makes the recycled plastic very weak.
“This is not the case with Polarfin chemistry additive, which can be fine-tuned to make polar and polyolefin block chains of any size, enabling the combination of a wide range of currently incompatible thermoplastics.”
Work as already started on development of new Polarfin-Blue products, while Interface Polymers has secured a number of commercial partners. Project partner Thompson Coatings will carry out trials during development of the new layered plastic films.
Interface Polymers Ltd was established in 2016. Originally part of the University of Warwick, the company has been working on a range of solutions intended to enhance material performance and reduce production costs across a wide range of applications.