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New recyclate replaces 50% virgin plastic in shrink film

German firm APK says its Newcycling LDPE recyclate is a significant contribution to the uptake of recycled content in shrink film.

The recycling player from Merseburg has tested the performance of the innovative product in shrink films in several projects this year. APK concludes that it delivers on the key functional issue of shrinkage while the thickness of the film is the same as that made from virgin plastics.

‘Impressive results’

Trials that focused on multi-layer collation shrink films (those that tighten with heat) found that replacing 30%-55% of virgin feedstock produced ‘impressive results’: the APK film was virtually indistinguishable from that made of virgin material. Additionally, Newcycling recyclates produce nearly 50% of the emissions of virgin LDPE.

‘Collation shrink film is a demanding packaging application for virgin polymers and all the more so for recycled materials,’ says Klaus Wohnig, ceo of APK. It needs to have a specific strength, holding force and shrink performance to guarantee both package integrity and the necessary stability for storage and transport.

‘Our LDPE recyclates are suitable for a broad number of end markets. When it comes to shrink films, they represent an opportunity for the beverage industry to push its use of secondary raw materials in applications such as shrink sleeves or multipack sleeves,’ Wohnig adds.

Target the right polymer

APK’s technology uses a dissolution recycling process that separates the different polymers in multilayer plastic packaging that has long been considered unrecyclable. Following a mechanical pre-treatment step, a solvent-based process targets the desired polymer. The resulting material is then purified of all contaminants, such as additives or organic residues.

As Newcycling is a physical process and does not affect the molecular chains of the polymer, costly and energy-intensive re-polymerisation is not needed. The company says its technology is complementary to standard mechanical recycling and chemical processes such as solvolysis.

APK currently employs around 130 engineers, researchers and administrative staff at its industrial-scale plant in Merseburg, which can handle up to 20 000 tonnes of material per year.

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