Pouch-to-pouch recycling concept proven by Dow and partners

Co-opting stakeholders throughout the value chain is essential in developing recycled packaging solutions, especially when the aim is to close the circularity cycle with a solution of similar value. A recent proof-of-concept example— a first-of-its-kind pouch-to-pouch mechanical recycling concept—saw five industry player combine to recycle PE-based barrier pouch into a new high-quality PE pouch suitable for repeat recycling

The partner include Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics, a business unit of Dow, digital printing solutions provider HP Indigo, film extrusion equipment vendor Reifenhäuser, deinking technology proponent Cadel Deinking and pouch machine maker Karlville.

The first PE-rich pouch was designed for recyclability with up to 5% EVOH in the total structure for barrier functionality, and Dow’s resins provided stiffness-toughness balance, low-temperature sealability, adhesion to extruded barrier layers and excellent bubble stability. For the second PE-based pouch, a high-performing solventless adhesive was employed to enable the lamination of the MDO-PE film to the PE-film containing recycled resins from the first pouch.

“To produce the recycled PE resins for the second pouch, we used our deinking technology to achieve the best outcome,” said Pablo Cartagena, Business development manager at Cadel Deinking. “The deinking process is key because it effectively removes ink from the plastic surface to obtain a plastic with similar characteristics to the raw virgin material which helps to provide high-quality pouch-to-pouch recycling. We are very happy to collaborate closely with all these leading companies and to demonstrate that Cadel's deinking technology is considered ‘crucial’ to achieve circularity in plastic.”

As a further evolution of the project, the companies are working to add digital traceability to the pouches in line with the R-Cycle initiative, a cross-company initiative to develop an open and globally applicable traceability standard for sustainable plastic packaging. The aim of this initiative is to automatically record recycling-relevant packaging properties during production by providing a digital product passport and to pass them on through the value chain. Using special markings, usable packaging can then be identified in the recycling process and sorted into single-type fractions. This is the key to obtaining high-quality recyclates to continue efforts to close the loop. R-Cycle is being driven by several major stakeholders in the plastics industry, including Reifenhäuser, which is contributing the technology to the pouch-to-pouch concept.