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KP and IK Working Group close the recycling loop with pilot on plastic rigid food trays

Packaging Solutions Green Solutions

Klöckner Pentaplast (KP) has worked with the German Plastic Packaging Industry Association (IK) to create a successful pilot project for the closed loop recycling of Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic food trays.

Nobert Adamzyk, Sites managing director and operations manager in Germany, and Berthold Tiefensee, HSHEQ manager for North-West Europe, from kP in Ritterhude, Germany, managed the pilot project and Norbert said: ‘We have shown that we really can close the loop for plastic food trays, turning them into new recycled plastic trays. This offers a viable option for dealing effectively with what has always been a very challenging post consumer waste stream.’ This successful outcome represents an important step forward for sustainability.

In cooperation with a manufacturer of optical sorting facilities, members of the IK Working Group leased a sorting line. Clear mono PET trays were first extracted from 30 tonnes of mixed PET fraction. They were subsequently ground up by a German based PET recycling company Multipet, then washed and converted into recycled PET (rPET) flakes. Finally, KP processed the rPET flakes into rPET film, and converted the film into new trays.

Berthold said, ‘Up to this point, recycling of PET trays has been seen as extremely difficult, in the absence of suitable sorting facilities and recycling technologies. The successful completion of this project is a crucial moment and shows that PET trays can indeed be recycled into new PET trays – rather than having to downcycle them for other uses.’

Further trials with significantly increased input volumes are planned. These will answer remaining questions around industrial separation, material recycling and product application.

‘This is a very important step for an effective and efficient circular economy in the plastic trays business,’ said Ana Fernandez, global innovation director for KP’s Food and Consumer Products division. ‘We have engineered our trays to be compatible with the recycling stream, and we are now working to ensure that our trays are recycled when they are out in the real world, delivering a viable way forward for a sustainable plastic economy.’

The PET Trays Working Group of the German Plastic Packaging Industry Association (IK) was created in February 2018, with the goal of promoting (PET) trays by ensuring their recycling capabilities. Companies from across the value chain take part, from manufacturers to optical sorters and recyclers.

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