Furthermore, the reuse of recyclates in food packaging applications is clearly restricted by EU legislation (2). The potential presence of undesired substances in the recyclates hence requires appropriate methods of decontaminations. Therefore, CIRCULAR FoodPack will further develop the Tracer-Based-Sorting systems to separate food from non-food packaging, enhance mechanical and physical recycling processes and eco-design innovative mono-material food and personal care packaging that will be easy to sort and to recycle. A thorough social and environmental impact analysis, as well as a market and consumer needs assessment will accompany the developments to set up a competitive business model. The CIRCULAR FoodPack project started in June 2021 and will run until November 2024 with about 5.4 million Euros of EU funding from Horizon 2020 the European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. The project will be implemented by fourteen companies and research institutes from six European countries and is coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Freising.
Flexible plastic packaging is indispensable for food and personal care because of its excellent ability to meet the manifold requirements for safety and hygiene. Depending on the requirements of the packaged goods, seven or more layers are combined in a single film. However, such multi-layered film structures cannot be reliably sorted and efficiently recycled by state of the art processes. Thus, the recycling of 14.3 million tons of post-consumer flexible plastic packaging waste (3) is hampered by two million tonnes of multilayer-composites from food packaging annually1 due to their composition and untraceable origin. This targeted material stream is significant and the expected impact of the project developments is substantial.
EU legislation strictly defines the type of input materials allowed for recyclates that may be reused in direct contact with food, but to date the waste streams of non-food and food packaging are not separated and hence their recyclates do not meet the EU requirements. This causes the loss of valuable resources, since this un-sortable waste from flexible packaging has to be incinerated or landfilled. Thus, there is a crucial need for innovative, sustainable recycling technologies and packaging solutions within the European Union to achieve EU Green Deal targets towards a zero emission society by 2050.