Launched in October 2020, the Nextloopp initiative, a project that has developed commercially-proven methods to separate food-grade PP from post-consumer packaging using marker technologies to create recyclable food-contact approved PP packaging with 100% recycled content, continues to grow.
The multi-participant initiative recently welcomed Braskem as its 40th member. Braskem, the largest producer of thermoplastic resins - including PP - in the Americas, joins a host of other organisations taking part in the project, including brand-owners, suppliers, universities and industry associations, through to end-users in the PP supply chain. Nextloopp is being led by UK-based sustainability consultancy Nextek, which was founded in 2004 by professor Edward Kosior. Nextek launched Nextloopp project to close the loop on food-grade rPP.
In Europe, some 10 million tonnes of PP are consumed each year and 40% is used for consumer packaging. Around 70% of this consumer packaging is for food packaging. In the UK alone, 210,000 tonnes of food-grade polypropylene packaging is used in pots, tubs, trays and films each year, and in the U.S. an estimated 827,000 tons of PP per annum is generated by single-family households. As until now, sorting and processing technologies for the development of food-grade rPP material via mechanical recycling have been unavailable, much of this food packaging currently gets recycled into non-food applications.
The production of just 1 tonne of recycled PP saves approximately 1.7 tonne of CO2 emissions. If the UK meets the 30% recycled content target for food contact PP packaging alone, it will create annual savings of 63,000 tonnes of virgin PP and 107,000 tonnes in CO2 emissions.
Nextloopp uses a combination of technologies to first separate food-grade PP from the rest, and then decontaminate the polymer to ensure compliance with food-grade standards in the UK, EU and the USA.
The project recently published outstanding results of its innovative tracer-based sorting trials. Being able to identify and sort any number of pack variants from bleach bottles to milk bottles in any plastic type is a world-first and is putting Nextloopp on the fast track towards creating a true post-consumer food-grade recycled PP.
Currently, the project has the following aims: demonstration of innovative sorting technology, preparation of protocols for the European Food Safety Authority and United States Food and Drug Administration, implementation of sorting requirements for packaging in the recycling stream and mechanical reprocessing facilities for food-grade rPP as raw material in packaging. The demonstration plant will be available by the end of 2022.
“We are very proud to join Nextloopp given the urgent need to increase recycling rates and improve the quality of mechanically recycled PP, not only in Europe but globally,” said Alberto Chiozzi, who was recently appointed to lead Braskem’s efforts to further develop mechanical recycling in Europe.
“I’m confident that in cooperation with the other members, we will achieve the goal of closing the loop on food packaging.”