Circular economy: Advances in plastic recycling processes

Sustainability

At SP Group we often speak of our contribution to the circular economy. But what is that exactly? The circular economy represents a paradigm shift in terms of production. Its effects are felt on both an economic and social level and it focuses on using far less energy, water and raw materials in the production of goods, as well as reducing waste.

Recycling processes and specifically plastic recycling  are part of industry’s contribution to the circular economy. The aim is to look after our environment better and repurpose surplus raw materials and even used materials.

ADVANCES IN PLASTIC RECYCLING PROCESSES

Plastic has properties that make it difficult to equal, especially in terms of food packaging. The fact it is long-lasting should not be seen as a problem for the environment, but rather an opportunity to work with recycled materials.

The industry is currently working hard to create high-quality plastic materials from recycled plastic. It is not only investigating how to reintroduce plastic bottles and packaging into the cycle, but also other innovative uses that will change the way we use natural resources, such as wood.

We are currently looking at how recycled plastic can be used to make railway sleepers and pallets. Given the enormous amount of railway lines in the world, and the huge amount of goods transported on pallets, innovations in these areas are bound to have a positive impact.

SP GROUP AND THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY

SP Group has long been aware that the plastics industry has to help solve the problem of excess waste, so we have been working hard to develop sustainable solutions.

We have switched our approach to eco-design for everything we produce. We focus on four points:

  • Downgauging: we use just the right amount of plastic to save on raw materials.
  • Incorporating reused and recycled materials: we give packaging materials a second life.
  • Creating mono-material recyclable structures: we create high-quality structures that are easy to recycle because they are either mono-material structures or structures with materials that can be easily separated.
  • Developing biodegradable and compostable packaging: we are carrying out innovative research to create useful packaging that can be broken down by water, sunlight, the bacteria naturally present in soil, etc.

ACHIEVEMENTS

We are very proud of our figures and data related to the circular economy. However, it is important not to just content ourselves with our accomplishments so far, there is still much work to do. The following are just some of our achievements to date:

  • Thermoformable mono-layer rPET film: This recyclable film is made entirely from recycled material, with more than half coming from post-consumer trays. Recycling is made easier with our materials that facilitate sorting and other processes. As an added bonus, this material is just as tough and transparent as non-recycled materials.
  • Our factory in Espiel: We have implemented our Tray2Tray project. The goals of the project are to reduce the use of virgin material, to reformulate materials so less plastic is needed, and to avoid mixing materials to facilitate recycling. In collaboration with a waste management company,  at Espiel we now recycle and reuse our mono-layer PET packaging.
  • We have modified our printing processes to make them more environmentally friendly. Our offset system uses solvent-free electron beam inks and our digital system has the option of biodegradable inks.
  • We have developed biodegradable materials, including our BIO FVSOL 60. This high-quality material is also biobased and compostable and is set to revolutionise food packaging, fitting perfectly into the circular economy.

This list is growing continuously, and we never stop searching for new environmentally friendly packaging solutions that make us part of the solution and an active participant in the circular economy.

If you would like to stay abreast of all the latest news on plastic recycling and sustainability, visit our news section: the advances being made to protect the environment are fascinating.


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