First foil laminate recycling plant gets commercial go-ahead

Foil laminate packaging recycling has taken a major step forward as a site has been secured to build the world's first commercial-scale plant for recovering this material.

Enval has already piloted technology capable of recycling flexible laminates and is looking to scale this up with its first commercial demonstrator plant, which will be located at Alconbury in Cambridgeshire.

The patented process Enval has developed will enable 100% recovery of laminated plastic and aluminium packaging – materials that currently get sent to landfill or for incineration. It is based around a microwave induced pyrolysis system which can generate high yields of good quality aluminium, along with a pyrolysis oil.

Plant capacity will be 2,000 tonnes per annum working on a 16 hour day, 5 days a week basis, processing anything between 250-400kg of material per hour.

Several brand owners including Nestlé, Kraft Foods Group and Mondelez International are backing the new plant through a sponsorship agreement, according to Enval’s business development director David Boorman.

While he wouldn’t reveal precise details of the commercial arrangements, Boorman confirmed that the companies would not be taking an equity stake in the venture nor own part of the facility.

“This material currently can’t be recycled so the interest from the brand owners is that should our process prove successful and eventually installed at waste handling plants, it gives them the possibility of putting a recyclable logo on their packaging,” he told edie.

Initially the plant will take material from commercial and industrial streams, much of it pre-consumer waste generated post-production. However going forward Boorman said post-consumer waste would be targeted.

“The post-consumer materials are likely to have some amount of residual product left on the packaging, but we are confident our technology can deal with this. We have worked on this with our pilot plant in Luton which has been processing material with residual content,” he said.

While the clean aluminium generated from the plant will be ready for introduction into the secondary aluminium supply chain, the hydrocarbons produced can be used as fuel or chemical feedstock.

Enval is aiming for full commissioning of the facility by the end of the first quarter of 2013. While it will operate the plant, long-term the technology will be marketed to the waste industry where it can be installed in materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plants.

Maxine Perella

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