Designing Flexible Packaging for Different Recycle Streams

Sustainable Package Offerings March 8, 2019

In the US market, flexible packaging designed for the front of store drop-off recycling stream must be comprised primarily of polyethylene (PE) materials. Polyethylene is a common material used in the industry for light-weight items like plastic shopping bags, dry cleaning and bread bags. These PE materials do differ considerably from traditional multi-laminate materials you typically see today and have certain limitations. To accommodate the differences in material properties, newer PE formulations are being introduced. These PE formulations are supplemented with small percentages of barrier materials like EVOH which is typically used to provide an extended shelf life for the item within the package. The percentages of these barrier additives need to be closely monitored to ensure they do not impact the recycle stream.

American Packaging Corporation has developed a broad portfolio of design for recycle solutions for a broad range of packaging applications including dry mix, confection, snacks, cereals, fresh produce, soaps, and lotions. These solutions have been designed and pre-approved for inclusion in the front of store drop-off recycling program. Potential packaging format options include bar wraps, pillow pouches, and stand-up pouches. This portfolio has been developed with the appropriate barrier properties to ensure there is no compromised to the shelf life of the product. Recent material and process technologies have enabling packages with high-gloss, clarity and comparable stiffness to traditional multi-layer laminates. This portfolio can be provided in either rollstock or premade pouch format.

Designing a Flexible Package for the Design for Compost Stream

Design for compost is one of the elements of the New Plastics Circular Economy. Targeted applications are those nutrient contaminated packages that can’t be considered for the design for recycle stream. Raw materials choices used for design for compost applications are greatly limited and in short supply. This limited offering presents design challenges when trying to match performance of a traditional multi-material pouch and the economics tend to be unfavorable. These inefficiencies coupled with the lack of collection infrastructure tend to be limiters for the design for compost type of packaging, but much innovation is underway with regards to materials, technology, and infrastructure. Materials for design for compost include examples like paper, cellophane, polylactic acid (PLA) as well as many others. These materials are available from traditional petroleum-based feedstocks or can be derived from natural bio-based content.

The demand for design for compost packaging has been rather limited to date. However, American Packaging Corporation (APC) has been experimenting and evaluating several different options. Due to the lack of collection infrastructure, the concern has been that compostable packaging will end up in a landfill and the environment within a landfill is not suitable to promote biodegradation. To that end, APC has been developing a design for compost laminate structure utilizing internal extrusion coating assets. Using this equipment, APC can apply a thin coating of a biodegradable sealant onto a biodegradable barrier substrate yielding a light-weight option that will still perform for the intended application.

Sustainability Platform - Design for Recycle and Compost

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