realCYCLE: Is a polypropylene (food) loop possible and reasonable?

We address the following key questions:

  • Can a food-grade recy clate with processing properties like virgin material be achieved through single-variety recycling?
  • Can this recycling and processing be carried out in Switzerland? Or where and how can the recycling be carried out alternatively?
  • Is approval of this material (recyclate) by the Swiss authorities (possibly also EU) possible within the scope of the project?
  • Which requirements must the collection and sorting fulfill, respectively what is possible and also reasonable in practice? Can the required recyclate quality also be achieved and guaranteed in a possible mixed collection of plastics?

Aim of the pilot project

This project was brought to us by Emmi Schweiz AG. Using the example of the café latte cup (polypropylene PP as the main plastic), the basic aim is to clarify whether and how a closed material cycle is possible and sensible for PP food packaging using mechanical recycling processes. The challenge lies in the fact that this is packaging that comes into contact with foodstuffs, and there are strict standards and restrictive regulations in this area with regard to recycling and recyclate quality if the recyclate is to be used again for the production of new PP food packaging (keywords "closed-loop" or "food-to-food").

The findings from this pilot project should be scalable and thus applicable to various PP packaging from the food sector, including not only cups but also trays and trays. It is also conceivable that individual aspects and indicators of this project can be transferred to other widely used food packaging, such as PET trays.

What we are currently working on

The pilot project is becoming more and more concrete. Thus, it was decided in the project group to carry out practical "small-scale" tests in order to test and analyze the recyclability of PP packaging more precisely under laboratory or pilot plant conditions. To this end, we are cooperating with the Plastics Training and Technology Center KATZ.

In a first test, the technical feasibility of closing the cup cycle again and again in several cycles is to be investigated on the basis of the Caffé Latte cup from Emmi. The focus will be on analyzing the material-specific properties and the technical feasibility of the cycle.

Further analog tests are planned with

  • Admixtures of different thermoformed PP packaging
  • Blending of IML and printed PP packaging, without barriers
  • Admixtures of colored IML packaging
  • Blending of IML and printed PP packaging, with barriers

As soon as these small-scale tests have started or the first findings are available, we will inform again.

Pilot Project Partner

The following stakeholders actively participated in this pilot project:

  • Waste advice Upper Valais
  • Bachmann Forming
  • Emmi Switzerland AG
  • Greiner Packaging
  • M-Industry
  • Stäger & Co
  • Swiss Prime Pack
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