On November 9, the packaging specialist Lorentzen & Sievers asked several parties to come to Hamburg for a professional exchange. Speakers from the Federal Environmental Agency, Fraunhofer IVV, DSD Grüner Punkt and recycler REMONDIS informed representatives of all the stages of fruit marketing about recycling and packaging legislature.
According to the Federal Environmental Agency, monitoring of beach waste has shown that 80 to 85% of Europe's marine waste consists of plastic. About 50% of the waste found on European beaches is disposable plastic products, of which 86% consist of cigarette filters, food containers, bottles and bags, plastic cups and dishes, balloons and their sticks, cotton swabs and toiletries, candy and chips bags. New packaging laws and a central European strategy should prevent future environmental pollution in the best possible way.
Organisers Lorentzen & Sievers was present at the Expose as well - the European trade fair for asparagus and strawberries. Here Claudia Schuh shows the company's sustainable packaging innovations.
According to the Federal Environmental Agency, there are currently about 720,000 distributors of packaging who have to participate in a dual system. The dual systems should raise around 1.2 billion euro in participation fees each year. Since some marketers have not yet fulfilled their legal obligations, there is a sub-licensing gap of around 30%, which is to be closed by the Packaging Act, which will apply from January 2019 onwards. Gerhard Kotschik from the Federal Environment Agency sees the greatest potential in improving packaging design, as well as in expanding recycling paths, recycling infrastructure and better consumer information.
According to comments by Dr. Ing. Ina-Maria Becker from the DSD Der Grüne Punkt the law demands regular data reports from manufacturers and their systems, including mass flow certificates. Every inspector working under the Packaging Act must register with the ZVSR. These data are then used to calculate the market shares of dual systems and to strive for a fairer distribution of funds. The assessment of the system participation fees will in future be based on ecological criteria. Recyclability and the use of recyclates and renewable raw materials are given favourable attention.
Another aim of the Packaging Act is to increase recycling rates. For the assessment of the recyclability, the existence of sorting and utilization structures, sortability as well as the exclusion of incompatible materials are considered. The assessment of recyclability refers to the product as a whole including lids, labels and sealing film.
According to Dr. Ing. Becker, eco-profiles show that recycled products are much more environmentally friendly than using primary raw materials. According to the DSD, for example, PP recyclates reduce the greenhouse effect by 50%, necessary processing energy by 60%, acidification of soils by 59% and eutrophication by 79%.
Dr. Frank Welle from the Fraunhofer IVV in Freising provided a deep insight into the statutory requirements for ensuring food safety with the use of recyclates. If these are to come into direct contact with foodstuffs, as plastic recyclate they must meet the strict requirements of the EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority.
Use of secondary materials
Classic fruit and vegetable trays made of plastic are predominantly made of PET and are already being produced from up to 95% recycled material. PET bottles have proven to be particularly suitable as a source of raw material for these, according to Dr. Welle. Due to the lack of the necessary recycling paths, however, this material cycle is not yet fully environmentally friendly.
To circumvent EFSA's strict rules, many manufacturers will employ recycled film packaging behind a barrier of other raw materials like aluminum or laminates. In order to rule out contamination of the food stuffs, Dr. Wave instist that it mus be clear how diffuse the material is and where the materials are coming from.
Gerhard Kotschik from the Federal Environment Agency: "Despite decreasing packaging weights, there is a continuous increase in packaging waste. Therefore it is important to avoid unnecessary packaging and to minimize what is required. All packaging should be made as recyclable as possible."
High quality recyclable material
At Remondis in Hamburg, PET flakes are produced from PET bottles in a complex process chain consisting of sorting, shredding, washing, drying and re-sorting as high-quality recyclable material for food packaging. Philip Asbach from Remondis explained that full-surface sleeves of different plastics, aluminum composites, printing inks, black colourations or non-removable large-area labels sometimes are found to be massive disruptive factors. When developing new products, these should therefore be avoided right from the start.
Typical end markets for R-PET are films (e.g., for thermoformed products like fruit and vegetable trays), fibers (e.g., for vehicles), preforms (bottles), and strapping. Overall, according to Philip Asbach, the European R-PET market grew by more than 30% from 2010 to 2016 alone. In the last two years, this development has once again made a leap forward, resulting in a corresponding shortage of recyclates with resulting price increases. Currently there is no end in sight because of the self-commitment of some market participants and EU regulations.
Dr. Frank Welle from the Fraunhofer IVV (l): "PET trays for fruit and vegetables are actually an ideal application for recyclates. Nevertheless, the packaging must comply with the strict EFSA criteria." Philip Asbach from REMONDIS PET Recycling GmbH (r) also has a clear message: "The PCR markets (especially PET) will change in the near future, so all companies along the value chain have to work together. This is the only way to achieve the set goals."
The EU's ban on some disposable plastic products and the obligation for all EU countries to separately collect and at least 90% recycle PET bottles by 2025 will lead to the creation of pan-European bottle-deposit systems. In perspective, this will result in more clean PET goods and increased PET recycling. Nevertheless, according to Remondis, an R-PET shortage of more than 500,000 tonnes per year is expected over the next few years.