New report says change in food packaging recycling only possible through public-private partnerships

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The VTT team examined current and upcoming recycling systems for plastic and fiber packaging and found alliances between brand owners, recycling and sorting technology developers and waste management companies which are fundamental for the development of recycling solutions.

VTT said such partnerships are essential for future investments in new recycling technologies, as they provide accessibility to used materials and a potential user for the recycled product.

Commissioned by packaging company Huhtamaki, the report aims to identify and better understand the key drivers needed to achieve a working circular economy, in which packaging is not only recyclable, but recycled.

“The study predicts a significant increase in industrial chemical recycling capacity in the United States, Europe and East Asia over the next 3-4 years. Chemically recycled polymers can be included in food packaging after complete depolymerization, whereas in practice today recycled polymers certified as food contact material are mostly limited to rPET, which is used primarily in bottles,” said Mona Arnold, senior scientist at VTT.

Huhtamaki’s 2030 goals include a commitment to design 100% of its products to be recyclable, compostable or reusable. The company also aims for more than 80% of the raw materials it uses to be renewable or recycled. To achieve this, Huhtamaki said he must ensure that packaging materials are recycled after use in a way that maximizes their value for both the planet and people, and therefore help deliver a low-cost circular economy. carbon emission.

“We believe that a real push for systemic change – going beyond individual companies and bringing together value chains – towards low-carbon circularity is needed today,”​ said Thomasine Kamerling, executive vice president of sustainability and communications at Huhtamaki.

“It is not enough to produce recyclable products; they must be recycled. This requires building systems to recycle all waste and focusing on collectively reducing our carbon footprint. This will only be possible through breakthrough innovation and partnerships across the value chain. Effective use of Extended Producer Responsibility systems to build a positive material system for fit-for-purpose food packaging will also help. The VTT report describes how to achieve this and we hope it will serve as a reference point to support collaboration between industry, civil society and governments.

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