The EU’s Green Deal requires all packaging to be reusable or recyclable by 2030. This regulation is perceived as particularly challenging for multilayer packaging, where layers first need to be separated before entering recycling streams.
Recycling company Sulayr has been able to separate different types of multilayers since 2009, but the speed and cost-effectiveness of the process depends on the debonding of the films. Now, BASF, packaging machinery OEM Bobst and films expert Evertis are partnering with Sulayr so the ‘closed-loop’ process can be more widely adopted. At the core of the process is a multilayer film produced by Evertis, comprising PET and polyethylene layers, laminated with a BASF Epotal water-based adhesive.
‘Our technologies enable us to delaminate most types of PET-containing multilayers and bring the recycled PET back to the industry. However, we see a difference in the trays coming from the post-use phase to our facility,’ said Sulayr CEO Miguel Ángel Arena. ‘With BASF’s water-based Epotal adhesives for example, our separation process is simplified, because the adhesive allows a quick and easy separation with a high quality of the recyclates, which is not the case with solvent-based adhesives. A streamlined process can help scale up the recyclability of PET-based multilayers, giving the packaging industry a new way to meet its sustainability challenges.’
One way to optimise the recycling process is to produce all PET/PE trays under specific conditions that facilitate easy separation. This is one area in which the partners are collaborating, before bringing a new laminate to market. The partners say they hope to change the conversations about PET, waste, and sustainability taking place within value chain leaders and packaging associations, such as Petcore and CEFLEX. PET-based multilayers have many industrial uses, but were not previously thought of as a sustainable solution.
‘This collaboration can be game-changing for the future of flexible packaging,’ said Thomas Peter Schiele, BASF Vice President Adhesives, Fiber Bonding and Paper Coating Chemicals. ‘It demonstrates that a circular economy for PET-based packaging is commercially possible – if we all work together.’