The Sustainable Packaging Coalition and Closed Loop Partners recently have announced FlexPack Recovery Challenge 2019 that challenge the best and brightest entrepreneurs to uncover solutions to one of the most important challenges in sustainable packaging.
The idea for the challenge began in the SPC’s Industry Leadership Committee on Multi-Material Flexible Recovery, a working group comprised of major brands, plastic manufacturers, and packaging suppliers who jointly recognize the opportunity for new recovery technologies.
Multi-material flexible packaging is experiencing tremendous growth in the packaging market, however it is one of the most challenging packaging formats at its end-of-life. There is a lack of beneficial recovery options that divert multi-material flexible packaging from landfills and waterways and create outputs that are economically productive and environmentally preferable.
What is multi-material flexible packaging?
Multi-material flexible packaging is thin, lightweight packaging made of two or more inseparable layers of different materials, used to confer unique barrier and performance properties with minimal material. Multi-material flexible packaging is most commonly designed with layers of different plastics, and is used in a wide range of products including pet food bags, chip bags, and confectionery wrappers. It is anticipated to the fastest growing packaging format because of its cost and material savings.
Why isn’t multi-material flexible packaging recyclable?
Virtually all existing recycling solutions for plastic packaging are unable to accommodate the non-uniform and inconsistent makeup of multi-material flexible packaging.
The challenge is compounded by considerations surrounding collection, sorting, and aggregating multi-material flexible packaging. If multi-material flexible packaging is collected in a commingled system alongside other materials, then it must be sorted into its own stream. Sorting processes operate on a per-count basis and each individual piece of multi-material flexible packaging is of relatively low value compared to other types of packaging, since it takes an immense of individual pieces of multi-material flexible packaging to accumulate the volume needed for an effective marketplace. Finally, automated sorting facilities are generally unable to process any flexible packaging, as it can disrupt sorting equipment and contaminate paper recycling streams. There are existing robust initiatives aimed at solving the challenges around collection and sortation of flexible packaging, hence why the FlexPack Recovery Challenge focuses solely on the next step of the recovery sequence: reprocessing operations.
The Challenge is to identify innovations in the recovery of multi-material flexible packaging, such as:
• Technologies that separate multi-material flexible packaging into its constituent materials.
• Chemical or mechanical recycling processes that create viable material feedstocks for new manufacturing processes from multi-material flexible packaging.
• Novel non-recycling recovery processes that create chemical intermediaries or other industrial inputs from multi-material flexible packaging that support existing or new end markets.
Innovations will be assessed against:
• Ability to process commingled multi-material flexible packaging with variable composition, including polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, aluminum, and other materials common to multi-material flexible packaging.
• Ability to create a beneficial output, assessed in terms of alignment with circular economy principles and sustainable materials management principles.
• Market scalability and economic viability, including the potential of the project’s business model and consideration of targeted or various end markets.
Finalists will be selected to attend SPC Impact in Seattle, WA on April 1-4 2019 and present their work during a dedicated FlexPack Recovery Challenge Showcase to an audience of brands, retailers, suppliers, and impact investors.
There is no entry fee to participate!
No Entry Fee!There is no entry fee to participate!
Who can participate? ⇣
Participation is open to any start-up, university, or individual entrepreneur with a pilot-ready reprocessing technology that can recover multi-material flexible packaging in a way that is environmentally beneficial, economically productive, and socially just.