Cups and trays manufactured from recycled plastic is precisely what battenfeld-cincinnati, Illig Maschinenbau, and Der Grüne Punkt (The Green Dot) are producing in a joint project.

The aim was to close the reusable material cycle for disposable packaging made of PP and PET. At their K 2019 booths, the three companies provided information about their latest contribution to sustainability and the conservation of resources, showing a viable way to reach higher recycling rates.

The materials used to produce the sheet were supplied by Der Grüne Punkt and Germany’s dual system waste collections. To recover the material, the plastic packaging waste first passed through several steps of an elaborate sorting process (NIR, swim-sink and hydro cyclone separation). The PET proportion was cleaned by conventional washing, while the PP was prepared by additional optimised sorting and washing processes, as well as regranulation as Systalen PRIMUS PP.

Der Grüne Punkt has now embarked on a new course by separating the various packaging products according to individual articles in several sorting cascades, thus producing a high-quality fraction of PET trays. This fraction, ground into flakes and sorted again, has served as a raw material.

The sheet used as the initial product for making PP cups or PET trays was produced on the ultra-modern three-layer sheet line in the technical lab of battenfeld-cincinnati. This line is equipped with a 75 T6.1 high-speed extruder, which is suited for PP processing, as well as a 120-40 Star extruder for PET.

The compact PP extruder offers low energy consumption and high output rates, whilst the PET extruder has a special process technology combination of a single screw with a central planetary roller section where the melt is subjected to a high level of degassing and decontamination. Both extruders are designed for perfect plasticising and homogenisation of the plastic melt even when 100 per cent regrind is used.

The ideal thermoforming sheet is then produced by the Multi-Touch roll stack, which is also part of the equipment. With its large number of roll gaps in the recalibration section, it produces tension-free sheet with a high degree of flatness and a transparency which depends on that of the raw material. A two-roll stack takes care of precalibration. In this case, it is arranged in a 45° position to suit both PP and PET sheet.

Finally, ILLIG produced cups and trays from the extruded sheet in various test runs at its technical lab. All manufactured end products have proved equal with comparable packaging solutions from virgin material in their profile of attributes. While the monolayer sheet made of PP regrind was processed on an RDM-73K thermoforming line with a cup mold, an RD-74-d with a tray mould was used to process the sheet made of PET regrind. In this case, Illig tested three monolayer sheets and a composite sheet with outer layers made of PET regrind in food-grade quality with ‘excellent results’ in each.

The partners have thereby proved the basic feasibility of re-processing 100 per cent recycling material from domestic waste collection systems into packaging products with the necessary profile of attributes. The next PHASE will be to test the renewed food grade quality of the packaging, and to optimise the process.

Dr Markus Helftewes, CEO of Der Grüne Punkt, said: “The co-operation with battenfeld-cincinnati and Illig is a pioneering effort in several respects. This project points to a first-class recovery option for PET trays, a fraction for which no practical recycling possibility has previously existed. We are now able to demonstrate how plastic waste from the Yellow Bag can be transformed again into food-grade plastic packaging. This is groundbreaking, and I am very glad that we, together with our partners, are once more able to set benchmarks.”

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