REFLEX undertook three distinct research projects all with the intention of developing solutions to increase the opportunity for mechanical recycling of hard-to-recycle plastics. Projects were developed to explore all aspects of the plastics recovery lifecycle:
1. Design: Research was done into the development of packaging designs which would permit for monolayer recycling design. The initial blueprint for industry-wide guidelines for recyclable multi-material packaging was started but is not currently available for public release.
2. Sortation: A variety of sortation tools were tested for their ability to identify and sort recyclable flexible packaging from the waste stream at municipal recycling facilities (MRFs).
3. End Markets: A variety of processing techniques to create end markets for blended polymers were explored.
Effective January 2017, all project work will be transferred to CEFLEX to help develop and grow insights for application across all of Europe.
- Polyethylene (PE) and Polypropylene (PP) can be re-processed together without impacting tensile strength. Mixes with polyethlene terphthalate (PET) however, should be re-purposed separately as they produced final products with weak tensile strength.
- The use of compatibilizers with Polyethylene (PE)/Polypropylene (PP) layers improves re-use properties significantly.
- Near Infrared (NIR) optical sorters can detect different types of multi-material flexible packages at sorting speeds, however more investment into sorting and reprocessing will be required before this can be considered a viable solution.
- Digital watermarking showed promise as a future technology to help with sortation.
- Although technically possible, it is not economically feasible to remove inks during the recycling of Polyethylene (PE) and Polypropylene (PP) films.
Funded by Innovate UK, this project was led by Axion Consulting.
Additional partners included:
- Dow Chemical Company
- Inteflex Group
- Tomra Sorting Solutions
Website: REFLEX Project