A new milestone has been reached in the quest to develop the waste-to-value potential of polystyrene through mechanical recycling.
Spain-based Coexpan, a leading manufacturer of Form Fill Seal (FFS) food packaging systems, has successfully tested mechanically recycled polystyrene in its FFS facilities at Innotech, the Innovation and Technology Centre of Coexpan and Emsur, the rigid and flexible packaging divisions of Grupo Lantero.
The tests were conducted within the scope of a project called ‘r-PS (r-PET alike’) aimed at validating post-consumer PS mechanical recycling performed using processes and technologies similar to those currently used on PET recycling lines: sorting, washing, flake sorting, super cleaning and melt-filtration.
Two types of FFS sheets were produced for these tests. The first featured an ABA structure composed of a middle (B) layer made from 50% r-PS sandwiched between two outer (A) layers of virgin polystyrene; the second was a monolayer structure made from 100% post-consumer r-PS.
Following testing on FFS yogurt packaging lines and analysis at the Innotech lab, it was found that both r-PS materials/FFS sheets showed very high purity levels and very promising outlooks as regards their processability in extrusion and thermoforming.
The outcome coincided with a recent SCS announcement on the positive results of the challenge test carried out in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute. Those results led to the first application being submitted to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for the use of recycled polystyrene (r-PS) as a food contact material.
Circularity is a major theme for Coexpan. The company participates in a number of collaborative projects for promoting and developing the circularity of plastic materials through mechanical and chemical recycling.
After working to extend the shelf life of packaged foods and to reduce waste, Coexpan is now also focussing on developing a closed-loop packaging loop, said Dinis Mota, CEO at Coexpan.
“Preserving and sustaining global earth resources is a must. Circularity challenges the packaging industry beyond recyclability and biodegradability,” he said.