It’s no news to the flexible packaging industry that consumers want to recycle their plastic products, but companies play a key role in making it possible – and much more convenient – for them to do so.
If you flip back to our August cover story, you’ll see that companies like Avery Dennison, Dow and Tipa are taking important steps toward sustainability and recyclability, which help both the consumer and the environment.
Birmingham, England-based Aquapak Polymers is also joining the green team. Earlier this month, the company announced a green plastics technology that manufactures fully recyclable and biodegradable polymer films for use across a range of packaging applications. Aquapak is currently testing the first commercial applications in the food packaging market.
“Over the last five years, we have been working with research partners Gluco Technologies led by emeritus professor Anthony Johnson, a renowned expert in reactive polymer chemistry, as well as teams of global packaging experts and Biffa Waste Management – one of the U.K.’s leading waste management companies,” says Dr. John Williams, business development director at Aquapak.
The flexible packaging films, officials say, have scored highly across all performance criteria, including strength and durability, multiple-use capabilities, barrier properties, anti-static, and barrier resistance to most solvents, oils and gas. The films were found to be both tear- and puncture-resistant and at least twice as strong as high-density polyethylene films.
“Our aim has been to create a super polymer that has the functionality of today’s polymers, can be produced at scale, be efficiently recycled, but is made from bio-benign material that doesn’t harm the environment, humans or marine line at the end of life,” Williams says.
Derived from a petrochemical source, the principal base raw material is used as a coating or an adhesive commodity polymer in other industries, like paper and glass windows. The polymer is also water-soluble and could be considered safe in marine environments. Plastic packaging makes up 62 percent of the waste found in the earth’s oceans, officials say, but Aquapak’s material is hydrophilic and breaks down into harmless organic components much quicker than hydrophobic plastics.
The polymer is also being tested for commercial use as a flexible, high-performance paint pouch, in the health care sector as laundry bags and disposable surgical wear, and as an alternative to pink electrostatic discharge bags used to package electrical items, mobile phones and laptops.
“Aquapak’s material is made from a readily available petrochemical feedstock,” Williams says. “However, a move to complete the sustainability criteria for the Aquapak range is to use a source of the base polymer from non-fossil sources. Aquapak is planning long-term programs with key global partners to substitute the source of carbon for more sustainable bio-sources to achieve this.”
For more information on Aquapak’s polymer, visit www.aquapakpolymers.com.