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Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging (CEFLEX)


CEFLEX is a collaborative initiative of a European consortium of companies and associations representing the entire value chain of flexible packaging to enhance the performance of flexible packaging in the circular economy.


Project Goals & Deliverables

  • By 2020 flexible packaging will have a comprehensive sustainability and circular economy roadmap for flexible packaging, including widely recognised design guidelines and a robust approach to measure, demonstrate and communicate the significant value flexible packaging adds to the circular economy.                                                                                          The roadmap will address:
    • resource efficiency
    • waste preventions benefits
    • sustainably returning recycled flexible packaging materials to supply identified end markets
    • elimination of leakage.
  • By 2025 there will be an established collection, sorting and reprocessing infrastructure/economy developed for post-consumer flexible packaging across Europe, based on end of life technologies and processes which deliver the best economic, technical and environmental outcome for a circular economy.

Key learnings

  • 70-80% of flexible packaging is reported as mono-polyethylene (PE), mono-polypropylene (PP), or potentially a polyolefin PE/PP mix with the remaining 20-30% consisting of multimaterial flexible packaging. 
  • The focus for CEFLEX is on redesigning the multimaterial structures to monomaterial where possible. Then finding solutions for the remaining multimaterials in terms of sortability and recyclability.
  • In the U.S., monomaterial PE film is recyclable (mainly through store drop-off) and this is the only flexible packaging that has a recycling stream available. In Europe, most consumer flexibles that are recycled are PE, with some countries recycling a mixed polyolefin (PO)  stream (i.e. Germany). PP streams are being developed currently.  Multi-material flexible films are not recyclable at scale in any location. 
  • In Europe, most PE flexible packaging goes into garbage bags. Some are also blended with other polyolefins and go into rigid applications. In the US, domestic end markets for flexible packaging include film-to-film recycling and plastic lumber. These end markets have restrictive material (PE film only) and contamination level requirements (clean & dry). End markets for mixed flexible bale are emerging but currently lack scale.
  • in general mixed flexibles that cannot be mechanically recycled are seen as a desirable input for chemical recycling. Limits exist for certain materials such as paper and non-polyolefins. Input specifications are under development for chemical recycling processes.

Additional information

Managed by Sloop Consulting

CEFLEX is the collaborative project of a European consortium of companies representing the entire value chain of flexible packaging and continues the work of Project REFLEX and Project FIACE.

Website: https://ceflex.eu/

CEFLEX developed the D4ACE guidelines to reflect the current state of knowledge as to what design characteristics are desirable for recycling, and are expected to evolve as more data and knowledge emerges.

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