Multilayer packaging ensures the quality and freshness of food because it offers product protection and hygiene which extends the shelf life of food. The companies BASF, Borealis, Südpack and Zott have joined to produce the prototype of food packaging made of 100 percent chemically recycled material.
Multilayer packaging consists of up to eleven individual ultra-thin layers, which makes it significantly lighter and thinner than comparable packaging. This saves raw materials and carbon dioxide emissions in transport. “Modern film packaging consists of several materials and layers with different properties, such as an oxygen barrier. This is high-tech. And the optimised use of materials has enabled us to reduce the volume of the packaging to a minimum,” explains Johannes Remmele, CEO of Südpack.
However, multi-layer packaging is only considered to have limited recyclability because mechanical recycling processes are not suitable for composite materials. “In the ‘ChemCycling’ project, we at BASF are working on chemical recycling of plastic waste, because this process can be used to recycle plastics which were previously unsuitable, such as mixed plastics. Now, for the first time, we and our partners have produced prototype packaging from chemically recycled polyamide and polyethylene. With this, we’ve shown that the cycle could soon be closed, even for multi-layer packaging”, states Christoph Gahn, responsible for the polyamide business at BASF. This pilot project was made possible by cooperation between the four partners BASF, Borealis, Südpack and Zott. BASF supplied chemically recycled polyamide, Borealis provided sustainably produced polyethylene. Südpack used these materials to produce a multilayer film which was processed into specially sealed mozzarella packaging for the Zott dairy. “In our dairy, we’re continuously checking along the entire value chain to see where we can be even more sustainable and how we can usefully expand our sustainability standards. In addition, consumers today more than ever expect high-quality and sustainably produced food to have packaging which conserves resources as much as possible. This is why it was important for us to be involved in this pilot project right from the start, and to contribute our experience and our stringent demands on packaging and its barrier function. Together, we worked towards a solution which is fully equivalent functionally, but is better for the environment. We’re optimistic about this project will make it into series production,” explains Andreas Strunk, Head of Production Technology & Supply Chain Management at Zott.
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“The special thing about the pilot project is that both packaging components – polyamide and polyethylene – are made of chemically recycled material,” Maurits van Tol, Borealis Senior Vice President Innovation, enthuses. “This innovative solution was made possible by the choice of special polymers.” The raw materials for polyamide and polyethylene were produced in very small quantities as part of the “ChemCycling” project. Pyrolysis oil supplied by a partner and obtained from plastic waste was used as a raw material in BASF’s composites production facility in Ludwigshafen. Both plastics were calculated to be 100 per cent recycled using the certified mass balance method.