Birmingham, UK based biodegradable plastic packaging materials developer, Aquapak Polymers Ltd, has developed a process to produce a multifunctional packaging polymer that is claimed to be both 100% recyclable and 100% biodegradable in standard waste management facilities.
The company explained that the process is currently at demonstration phase and with a full-scale production factory under construction. It added that it is now in talks with retailers, local authorities and the waste sector to explore the material’s potential as a sustainable alternative to conventional and bioplastic films.
According to Aquapak Polymers its patented process means that its PVOH polymer can be easily recovered from materials sorting facilities. When treated in water it dissolves and can then be recovered from solution and repelletised, ready to be returned to manufacturers in a closed loop system.
The development is said to bypass the difficulties of separating film from rigid plastic, and could replace multilayer packaging on a wide range of consumer products.
“As a packaging material it outperforms both cornstarch and many conventional plastics, while also overcoming the usual barriers to recovery and recycling,” commented Mike Everard, managing director of Aquapak Polymers Ltd.
The company said that initial tests indicate that its PVOH polymer is benign in the environment and non-toxic to marine life, so if recovery for recycling is not required the dissolved polymer can be washed away safely with wastewater.
Being FDA-approved it is suitable for packaging food products, overcoming a major hurdle for the market penetration of recycled plastics.
Detailed assessments with a number of key waste management operators were said to have shown that the polymer degrades quickly in anaerobic digestion (AD), meaning depackaging is not a pre-requisite to digestion. Its rapid degradability in the AD process means it could have significant implications for household food waste collections as well as the food manufacturing and packaging sectors.
“We are currently in talks with a number of key market sectors,” said Everard. “It’s an exciting time for Aquapak as we demonstrate to manufacturers and brand owners that they can now have a strong monolayer plastic that performs well, looks great, and is environmentally sustainable.”
Aquapak Ltd’s polymer is available as a 6μm - 200μm monolayer and is claimed to provide a high performance barrier for air, solvents and oils, while being puncture resistant and performing well in drop tests.
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