One-third of the plastic packaging produced is leaked into the environment, while a mere 14% is collected for recycling. If plastic demand follows its current path, global plastics-waste volumes will grow from 260 million tons per year in 2016 to 460 million tons per year by 2030.
While we refer to flexible packaging as a whole, the types of resins, polymers and formats used to create flexible packaging varies widely. This complexity, created by using one or more types of polymers to create flexible packaging, challenges the efficient collection, separation, recycling, and resale of this material. While new innovations and systems have been created to address single polymer materials, limited options for the end-of-life management of flexible multi-materials film packaging continues to challenge these types of packages.
Flexible multi-material packaging is composed of two or more materials joined with adhesive or wax. By layering different materials together, manufacturers can create a package with unique barrier and mechanical properties. Additionally, multi-material films are typically thinner and lighter than mono material equivalents. This helps reducing the demand for resources required to produce them and to reduce the transport which means the reduction of greenhouse gases.
Unfortunately, increasing packaging complexity to gain performance benefits also makes the packaging much harder to recycle and usually ends up in landfill or incineration plants.
According to the study carried out by Ellen MacArthur foundation: “The new plastics economy rethinking the future of plastics in 2016”, reversible adhesives based on biomimicry principles appear as an effective candidate concept that will help to create an effective after-use plastic economy. Hence, it is considered as an area to look at for the development of materials designed to facilitate multilayer reprocessing as well as the search for a ‘superpolymer’ with the functionality of today’s polymers and with superior recyclability. Other highlighted alternatives are chemical marking technologies; and chemical recycling technologies that could overcome some of the environmental and economic issues facing current technologies.
In this context, MANDALA project’s goal is to demonstrate that a combination of novel products and technology is efficient for the delamination of multilayer packaging. Therefore, it favours the sorting and cleaning process without polluting neither the biodegradable-waste flow nor the recyclable-waste flow, obtaining high purity polymers and recovering all fractions of the original product (coming from films and adhesives).