As it stands ‘flexible packaging’, such as sweets and crisp wrappers, makes up nearly a third of consumer packaging in the UK and around 556,000 tonnes ends up in landfill.
Reflex, funded by Innovate UK, aims to change this by matching flexible packaging recycling rates with that of plastic bottles, which is currently 58%, within ten years.
Roger Morton, director of Axion Consulting, one of the waste recovery experts working on the project, spoke about Reflex: “It represents a huge challenge to current recycling routes, because seemingly 'simple' packages, such as a biscuit wrapper, may incorporate several functional layers in order to deliver heat-sealable packaging with high tear strength, good puncture resistance and minimum cost.
“The complexity of these multi-layer films makes them virtually impossible to recycle by current methods because of the mix of polymer types and inks used.”
To achieve these goals, the Reflex campaign will investigate new materials, designs and a new automated sorting technique. There’s also plans for Unilever and Nestle to distribute industry-wide guidelines for recyclable packaging, to help encourage higher recycling rates on a global scale.