It is just underway. And it is another step toward getting answers about the best ways to increase resource recovery from flexible packaging. The project is called Materials Recovery for the Future (MRF), and Its objective is to find ways to:

  • Create an economically viable and nationally scalable solution to increase the recovery of flexible packaging.
  • Collect the flexible packaging as either a separate commodity bale for reprocessing or use within energy production.
  • Provide a flexible packaging recovery solution that is cost-effective for industry partners and easy for consumers to use.

The study’s partners include Dow, The Society of the Plastics Industry, the American Chemistry Council, Procter & Gamble, Sealed Air, Nestle, the Flexible Packaging Association, the Society of the Plastics Industry APR, and Pepsi.

A central purpose is to examine the potential of current sorting technologies to handle flexible packaging. Initial tests will examine different optical methods on waste sorting lines that handle fiber.

“Seeding” Flexibles into Waste Stream

Tests will use a variety of preconsumer flexible formats; it will use two tons of flexible materials that will be mixed into a standard stream of mixed materials at a sorting facility. Tests will focus on disc screens to determine how efficiently they direct flexible packaging into the fiber stream. In the next step, optical sorters will be evaluates on how different resins and formats affect the scanners’ ability to sort materials.

Test results will not only look at the efficiency of sorters, it will also report how individual materials perform in different systems. Work started July 1, 2015, and it should take a year to complete the work. The Research Foundation for Health and Environmental Effects (RFHEE) administers the study. Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) is conducting the research.