Recycling packaging: the cycle of polyethylene in nature

For many years now, plastic wrap has been making our lives more comfortable, helping goods to appear more attractive, more compact, keeping them fresh, protecting them from moisture. What happens to packaging afterwards? Unfortunately, tons of polyethylene end up in landfills and the environment, resulting in the pollution of our planet.

The obvious solution is to recycle waste with recycling potential, which is exactly what polyethylene is. However, what can be done if the necessary infrastructure for this is practically absent or in the initial stage of development, there are no adjusted chains of interaction in the closed cycle of packaging use?

Asking this question, the like-minded companies that dream about comfortable human life on our green planet realized that steps to save the environment should be made not by the mythical authorities, but by the direct participants of the process.

Back in 2020 Saint-Gobain, Gotek-Polipak, Managing Company Regional Operator, and Polymer Materials launched a joint project "Recycling Packaging - Circle of Polyethylene in Nature", which combined four production processes into one flow with hundred percent traceability, guaranteeing regular recycling of polyethylene.

Each partner plays its own important role in this project. At the first stages the task of Gotek-Polipak was to change formulation and technology of PE film production, using 10% of regranulate, obtained during the processing by colleagues from Polymer Materials. Produced products must have physical and mechanical properties, corresponding to the technical specifications of Saint-Gobain. As a result, a custom development appeared: PE-film "Eco-Recycle". The first tests on the packaging line of the customer passed without any problems, followed by 60 days of atmospheric testing at the premises of our partner. The report from the chief technologist is quite extensive, but the most important is the conclusion: "The PE Eco-Recycle film showed good results even when exposed to excessive atmospheric conditions".

The first industrial batch of Eco-Recycle proved itself similarly in real operating conditions. It would seem that we can count the result achieved and the mission of using recycled materials in packaging fulfilled. But Saint-Gobain, and also rest of the project participants, have a different point of view on this matter. Discussions are underway on how to gradually increase the proportion of recycled materials in the composition of the packaging material to 30% by 2025.

"Specialists understand that the rheology of recycled polymers differs significantly from primary polymers. Therefore, increasing the share of recycled raw materials requires adapting technology and using special additives. That is the reason why it is better to search for a solution gradually, systematically reaching the target values. At present we already have an understanding of how to achieve the 2021 targets.

It is worth noting that all participants of the project are ready to bear additional costs for its implementation, without which it is impossible to make the first steps in such a project. It is clear to everyone that without the initial costs increase it will be impossible to come closer to achieving global sustainable development goals, reducing the impact of packaging on the environment. SAINT-GOBAIN is possibly our most enthusiastic partner, striving for the ecological future of our planet. It is their employees who have energized us in this project. This year the company joined the UN program "Sustainable Development”, and is setting a good example for all of us", - noted Alexey Dunat, director of Gotek-Polipak.