The NextLoopp project, a global multi-participant effort aimed at the development of mechanically recycled food-grade polypropylene, has successfully completed the first full-scale packaging production trials using its PPristine food-grade resins.
The trials are being conducted at various of the 43 participants in the project. The first has now been completed at Mannok Pack, one of the UK and Ireland’s leading thermoformed food packaging manufacturers, at their County Cavan facility. Various different products were produced, ranging from 500g injection moulded dairy spread tubs and lids with in-mould labelling to a 500g dairy spread tub with lid produced using conventional sheet extrusion and thermoforming.
The finished packs showed excellent visual and processing characteristics with only ‘minor but acceptable product variations’ between the 30% rPP pack and the virgin PP pack, said Professor Edward Kosior, founder of Nextek Ltd, the sustainability consultancy that launched the NextLoopp project in 2020, who was very pleased with the results.
As Mark McKenna, Mannok’s general manager commented, the packs made with the recycled PP material looked ‘great and he expressed his confidence that the project is poised to help their industry move towards closing the loop on food-grade PP.
Robinson Plc’s CEO Helene Roberts agreed. Robinson, specialised in value-added custom packaging, joined the NextLoopp project in 2021. "We were delighted with the results of these initial trials using the food-grade rPP material from NextLoopp that produced very similar aesthetics and performance to our current virgin-based products and little disruption to the manufacturing line,” she said.
Not unimportantly, by ensuring that the resins have a recycled content of 30%, the material is compliant with the UK Plastic Packaging Tax introduced earlier this year. Under the new law, plastic packaging components containing 30% or more recycled plastic are not chargeable for the tax, which is levied at a rate of £200.00 per tonne. The tax applies to plastic packaging manufactured in or imported into, the UK, containing less than 30% recycled material. Plastic packaging is assumed to not meet the recycled content test unless proved otherwise.
As NextLoopp finalises the dossiers for its application to EFSA and USFDA for food-grade accreditation, they are also now working in conjunction with industry bodies to advise on new design guidelines for Food-Grade Circular Recycling based on their findings from these trials.