Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Recyclable plastics

An EU team developed the recyclable food packaging plastic created by an earlier project. The material had a much lower carbon footprint than alternatives; the manufactured food trays weighed and cost less, while also being more reliable.
Recyclable plastics
The European food packaging industry currently faces serious sustainability and competitive challenges. The EU hopes that European companies will lead the market through use of recyclable plastics.

The EU-funded ECOPET (Demonstration of innovative, lightweight, 100% recyclable PET prototype formulations and process tooling for low carbon footprint packaging to replace current industry standard virgin plastics) project developed a recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) material for food packaging. The new plastic, first created by the EU's rPET-FC project, has been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

ECOPET showed that the recycled PET could be manufactured at the high speed necessary to make it cost-neutral compared to competitor products.

Research yielded an 85 % reduction in polymer raw material carbon footprint compared to standard virgin materials. The improvement means savings of 1.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide per tonne of the new ECOPET material.

The team achieved a 70 % reduction in the carbon footprint of manufactured ECOPET food trays compared to non-recycled alternatives. The trays also weighed 21 % less than conventional products.

ECOPET delivered the capacity to manufacture 100 % recycled PET trays, although in practice many orders are expected to be 80-90 % recycled. The consortium further achieved the target reduction in sealing-failure rate.

The new recyclable PET represents lowered carbon emissions from manufacturing, and environmental improvements generally. At the same time, the material offers competitive advantage to European companies.

Related information

Keywords

Recyclable, plastics, food packaging, carbon footprint, food trays, ECOPET
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