The project, first announced in June 2014, is being funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Action Based Research programme in partnership with major food brands Nestlé UK & Ireland and Coca-Cola Enterprises.

One aim is to determine best practise to increase the amount of flexible laminate packaging collected by testing different methods of engagement with residents. It should provide insight on how communication, customer behaviour and brands will influence collection rates.

Resident engagement

The trial, which commenced on 16 February, will include 260 households covered by Bracknell Forest Council, London Borough of Hounslow and Calderdale Council.

SUEZ environnement technical development director Stuart Hayward-Higham said: “The outcomes of the trials will enable project partners and other industry stakeholders to evaluate the potential to include flexible laminated packaging in mainstream recycling collections in the UK, which SUEZ environnement is keen to explore.”

Solid Business Case

Project partner Enval says the UK uses more than 160,000 tonnes of flexible laminate packaging each year, containing more than 17,000 tonnes of aluminium. If a recycling solution can be found for flexible laminates, life cycle analysis indicates it to be a highly sustainable packaging solution as well as a substantial commercial opportunity, worth up to £200m in Europe a year.

Enval has created the recycling solution using microwave induced pyrolysis – where microwave energy heats and degrades plastics into useful pyrolysis oils – to extract the aluminium. Aluminium extracted in this way has a carbon footprint 72% lower than primary aluminium. Enval hopes the trials will show the “solid business case” for its technology, with the aim of rolling it out across the UK’s recycling plants in the future.

Extracting Value

“Flexible laminated packaging, such as food and drink pet food pouches, is becoming increasingly widespread and the global market is anticipated to continue to grow year on year,” Anthesis LRS director Dee Moloney said: Therefore, if these trials prove that viable collection, sorting and recycling schemes can be implemented, it will support the increased flow of materials into the secondary markets, establishing another step towards a more circular economy in the UK.”

“Defra is pleased to support this project, which is part of the government’s wider approach to enabling businesses to be more sustainable,” Resource Management Minister Dan Rogerson said: “I look forward to seeing the results of these innovative studies which could lead to us extracting more value from our resources.”

Earlier this week project partner Nestlé revealed it had hit several key sustainability targets two years early, such as its targets on emissions and waste.

Lucinda Dann

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