Tesco, Nestlé and Coca-Cola to test recycling options for ‘challenging’ materials

A consortium involving Tesco UK, Nestlé UK & Ireland and Coca-Cola Enterprises has won government funding to undertake research into cost-effective collection and reprocessing methods for hard-to-recycle packaging materials.

The project, which is being led by LRS Consultancy, will explore ways to increase the amount of flexible laminate packaging that is collected and recycled in England. It is estimated that more than 160,000 tonnes of this packaging type, such as toothpaste tubes and pet food sachets, enters the UK marketplace each year.

Flexible laminate packaging contains a mix of aluminium and plastics, making it difficult to collect and separate for recycling. The initial scoping study will assess the feasibility of a range of collection and communication approaches for households and commercial premises within different regions of the country.

According to LRS Consultancy managing director Dee Moloney, brands are increasingly using this type of packaging to help increase shelf life and reduce the amount of material used in the manufacturing process.

“Sometimes such initiatives result in unintended challenges for the resource management industry to manage and process these mixed-material products post use,” she said, adding that the outcomes of the research would enable better evalutation of the commercial feasibility of including this packaging in mainstream recycling collections.

Circular economy commitment 

Dependent on the results, trials may be implemented to test various collection solutions which would be assessed to ascertain the most effective solution for different demographics and locations. Tesco has confirmed that it will be supporting the project with communications and the provision of recycling facilities.

Technology provider Enval will also be involved in the project – the company has developed a process that can reprocess plastic laminates containing aluminium. Enval managing director Dr Carlos Ludlow-Palafox said due to the valuable nature of aluminium, it was important to capture and recycle as much of it as possible.

“We are delighted to be working with collection companies and brand owners to find the best way to collect flexible laminate packaging and establish increased recycling rates for this material as part of our commitment to the UK’s circular economy,” he said.

If the trials prove successful, they could lead to significant carbon emission savings and benefit the secondary commodity market. Flexible packaging is becoming increasingly widespread – the global market is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.1%, from 2013 to 2018. The research is being funded by Defra’s Action Based Research programme.

Earlier today (23 June), a new report from the Plastic Disclosure Project, the UK Environment Assembly and natural capital analysts Truscot explained that businesses could significantly enhance their sustainability credentials by improving the way they measure, manage and report the amount of plastic they use in their operations and across the supply chain. 

Maxine Perella

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