The Pet Sustainability Coalition announced that NOVA Chemicals Corp (NOVA Chemicals), a supplier of polyethylene resins, will sponsor “Toward Circularity”, an expansion of its Flex Forward pet food packaging recycling pilot which will include both post-consumer and post-industrial recycled (PCR and PIR) material and conduct testing to determine best markets and applications for the material.

The Pet Sustainability Coalition partnered with pet food brand Earth Animal and distributor Pet Food Experts to launch the Flex Forward pilot program to test a "return to retail" pet food packaging collection system where packaging is recycled for use in new products. The coalition says it collected more than 10,000 used pet food bags at 120 return-to-retail collection points in independent pet food retail locations in Oregon and Washington. “Toward Circularity” says it will increase testing of the collected materials from consumers to introduce the recycled pellets into new materials while also collecting and testing scrap that occurs from misprints and manufacturing errors.

“An estimated 300 million pounds of plastic pet food and treats bags are produced in the United States alone each year,” says Melissa Bauer, director of sustainability at the Pet Sustainability Coalition. “Most of these bags are made of multiple types of plastic, making them difficult to recycle. Long term, we aim to help the pet food industry move to recyclable, mono-material packaging, but it is imperative that we help increase recycling for the materials that are being produced today.”

According to the coalition, NOVA Chemicals will provide funding and expertise to advance the circular economy for flexible plastic pet food and treat packaging materials by decreasing landfill rates and providing end-of-life solutions to consumers, retailers and packaging manufacturers for recycled materials. It will conduct testing at its Centre for Performance Applications in Canada and use the results to understand the use, applications, performance attributes and repurposing of the material, informing the closed-loop plastics recycling program and allowing pet owners, retailers, brands and packaging suppliers to collaborate on reducing the environmental footprint of packaging.

“We are actively working with our customers and throughout the value chain to help them design and develop products and packaging that utilize recyclable film structures and post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials,” says Monika Kleczek, circular economy market manager at NOVA Chemicals. “Only 6% of all plastics that are recycled today are flexible materials. The Flex Forward pilot is a great opportunity to tap more of the potential for flexible films to be recycled into new, valuable products.”

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