Plastic film recycling trials show major benefits for retailers

Closed loop recycling of post-consumer and retail waste plastic films could become a commercial reality within four years, following successful feasibility trials.

Refuse sacks, external hoardings, shelving and in-store displays are among the products that could be made from waste supermarket plastics and either sold or used within their store networks, according to Axion Consulting who undertook the tests.

Axion worked with three leading manufacturers – CeDo, Centriforce Products and Protomax Plastics – on a series of demonstration trials of post-consumer films sourced from a leading retailer’s front and back of store collections.

The research, which was funded by WRAP, showed that it was technically possible to manufacture commercially useful products for the retail sector from mixed post-consumer film packaging.

According to Axion’s director Roger Morton, the findings should give manufacturers confidence to invest in production capability, which in turn would stimulate local authorities to accept waste plastic films in their recycling collections. He predicts this could happen within two to four years.

Morton said: “This is a tremendous step in the right direction to really grow film recycling capacity in the UK over the next few years. Consumers want to see their plastic waste given a new second life … ultimately consumer demand will drive this whole closed-loop recycling process.”

The trial at CeDo’s Telford facility produced refuse sacks that met existing product specifications using 100% UK-sourced recycled content from household waste. Previously European recyclate had to be used due to waste quality issues. CeDo is now working with retailers to launch new products.

According to CeDo’s technical development director, David Brookes, retailers are showing increasing signs of wanting to manage their plastic waste derived from their own supply chain and retail stores back into products they sell.

The other two trials with Centriforce and Protomax focussed on boards made from co-mingled film waste that could be used for a variety of applications, such as hoardings, security panels and shelving. Both firms are continuing to work on product specifications and with retailers to open up market opportunities.

Developments in these types of products, which can incorporate post-consumer mixed-packaging plastics, are on the increase. One example is Protomax, a manufacturer of a plywood substitute from waste plastics, whose foamed-core plastic board and panels are being used in many construction applications.

Details of the trials can be found here

Maxine Perella

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