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Boost for alu-laminated packaging recycling

United Kingdom – Enval, the recycling firm spun out of the UK’s University of Cambridge in 2005, is set to have a full-scale plant up and running by the end of this year for the extraction of aluminium from a range of laminated consumer goods. The clean-tech firm intends to build the facility initially in Luton, north of London, where it already has an operational pilot plant – before relocating it to a UK waste handling site to demonstrate the technology is both environmentally and financially viable on a large commercial scale.

The new plant will be funded by a consortium of what Enval describes as well-known, consumer goods brand owners. Enval can then begin to sell the process which uses a patented technology to extract the aluminium present in huge numbers of laminated consumer goods such as toothpaste tubes, food pouches and drinks cartons. Other than with Tetra-pak-style packages where the paper pulp can be salvaged prior to the remainder of the material being discarded, almost none of these laminated containers are recyclable.

Enval says its process can recover 100% of the aluminium used in these products to a sufficiently high grade that it can then be sold on and reused, cutting costs for manufacturers and, more importantly, making previously unrecyclable products recyclable. According to Enval’s Business Development Director David Boorman, these environmental pluses are attracting plant sponsorship interest from companies across the plastics/aluminium laminate packaging supply chain. ‘The main driver is their CSR (corporate social responsibility) and packaging obligations,’ he says. ‘When you look at these products that go out, if you look at the materials, they are all single use – there’s no way of reusing them.’

Enval will initially target waste handlers although Mr Boorman notes interest at both the post-consumer waste stage and at post-manufacturing. ‘We have been talking at all levels of the supply chain: the web laminate manufacturers; converter firms that take the webbing and shape it; FMCGs (fast-moving consumer goods) that fill the shape for retailers; the retailers who sell it to consumers; and the waste handlers that take it from the consumer. At each stage of the production cycle, waste is produced from “trimmings” – and at each stage there is interest.’ The members of the consortium are expected to be revealed in the next couple of months.

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