POLYAL CIRCULAR

Closing the loop in carton packaging recycling


The project PolyAl Circular will improve the recycling potential of PolyAl, the fraction remaining after fiber extraction from drink and food carton packaging recycling, by developing a scalable chemical recycling process. The project will support companies in incorporating more recycled PolyAl in their products and make carton packaging an even more competitive material in the circular economy.

Carton packaging

Carton packaging, also known as drink carton or beverage carton, is very effective in protecting foods, such as milk and fruit juices. Today, Flanders recycles most of the carton packaging once used by consumers. During the recycling process, however, a fraction called PolyAl remains. This by-product consists of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and aluminium. Unfortunately, only limited recycling outlets for PolyAl currently exist. Therefore, a large amount of this material is not handled in an environmentally sound way, being incinerated or sent to landfills across Europe.

A valuable feedstock

PolyAl has, however, been identified as a feedstock of significant potential for chemical recycling technologies. Preliminary tests have already indicated that recycling PolyAl into high-quality secondary raw materials is feasible, which would effectively close the loop in carton packaging recycling. Yet, some challenges remain.

Circumventing hydrotreatment

Most importantly, a hydrotreatment step is deemed necessary to convert the recycled material into usable LDPE feedstock. Although effective, hydrotreatment’s high cost forms a barrier in the scale-up of the chemical recycling of PolyAl to commercially relevant levels.

Therefore, PolyAl Circular seeks to identify and optimize a cost-efficient scalable alternative to current hydrotreatment that (i) displays a better economic and environmental performance compared to hydrotreatment and (ii) yields high-value market-ready products.

A circular economy

By developing an innovative and cost-efficient chemical recycling process for PolyAl, this project will support companies in incorporating more recycled polymer from PolyAl in their products and make carton packaging truly circular. In addition, the innovations pursued by PolyAl Circular will also represent a significant step forward for the chemical recycling of polyolefins in general.


Project type: ICON
Approved on: 21/10/2021
Duration: 01/11/2021 – 31/10/2024 (36 months)
Total budget: €2.828.783
Subsidy: €1.827.377

PolyAl is an innovation project under the umbrella of Catalisti, the spearhead cluster that accelerates innovation into business in Flanders’ chemical and plastics sector. The project is also supported by Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO). To accomplish the project’s ambitious goals and ensure that all process steps are aligned, several industrial players across the value chain are involved. Tetra Pak is the leading producer of carton packaging. INEOS is Europe’s largest olefin producer and supplier of LDPE. Indaver is a clean tech company, active in chemical recycling. Umicore develops catalysts for the chemical industry. These four industrial parties are complemented by three knowledge institutes with a demonstrated track record in advanced catalysis (KU Leuven CSCE), plastic recycling process development (UGent LCPE), and environmental sustainability assessment (UGent STEN).

Project Partners


Contact
Questions about this project? Please contact catalyst Karen Van Wesenbeeck (kvanwesenbeeck@catalisti.be).