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UK project spotlights recycling of laminate packaging

United Kingdom – UK recycler Enval is part of a special project aimed at assessing the feasibility of including flexible laminate packaging – such as food and drink pouches – in existing household recycling schemes.

The nine-month trial is targeting 260 households at locations across the country. SUEZ environnement is taking care of the collections and initial sorting while Enval will recycle the material at its commercial demonstration facility at Alconbury near Huntingdon (featured in the September 2014 issue of Recycling International).

Enval’s patented process for recycling laminate packaging and retrieving the valuable resource content is based on microwave induced pyrolysis whereby ‘microwave energy is used to heat and degrade plastics into useful pyrolysis oils’, the recycler explains. ‘The fragile aluminium foil remains undamaged and can be extracted clean and ready to be reintroduced into the aluminium supply chain.’

Life-cycle analyses indicate that the aluminium obtained via this process has a carbon footprint 72% smaller than that of primary aluminium. Annually, the UK is estimated to use over 160 000 tonnes of flexible laminate packaging containing more than 17 000 tonnes of aluminium. With a recycling solution, this represents a substantial commercial opportunity, with a potential revenue stream of approximately £200 million a year (US$ 300 million) in Europe from the sale of aluminium alone.

Enval’s managing director Dr Carlos Ludlow-Palafox comments: ‘These trials are providing an important opportunity to prove that we can successfully capture and recycle the valuable aluminium, as well as recover the plastics as a fuel oil product. This will present a solid business case for Enval’s microwave induced pyrolysis technology to be bolted on to existing materials facilities and help increase levels of recycling across the UK.’

Other project partners include Coca-Cola Enterprises, Nestlé UK & Ireland and Anthesis LRS. The project is funded by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Action Based Research programme.

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