The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) and the Center for the Circular Economy (CCE) have launched the FlexPack Recovery Challenge, an open competition for innovators, entrepreneurs and start-ups to submit new ideas for reprocessing technologies capable of beneficially recovering multi-material flexible packaging waste.
Multi-material flexible packaging — which can consist of upwards of nine layers of plastics, aluminum, adhesives, paper and other substrates — is widely used for a number of household products including pet food bags, confectionary wrappers and chip bags, and represents the fastest growing segment within the packaging industry, according to SPC. It tends to provide advantages in cost, material efficiency and low emissions intensity, but the same characteristics that make it lightweight and effective are identified as also presenting hurdles for recyclers and other recovery outlets.
SPC noted that few technologies exist that can beneficially recover the embodied environmental investment within multi-material flexible packaging, and the FlexPack Recovery Challenge aims to uncover and showcase new technologies that can be scaled to provide meaningful options.
The idea for the challenge began in the SPC’s Industry Leadership Committee on Multi-Material Flexible Recovery, a working group comprised of major brands, plastic manufacturers and packaging suppliers who are said to ‘jointly recognize the opportunity for new recovery technologies’.
Adam Gendell, associate director at SPC, noted: ‘A system of sustainable packaging requires an effective, robust means of recovering the inherent value in all packaging waste, and novel, potentially unheard of recovery solutions will be needed to complete the sustainability story for this important packaging category.’
SPC is a membership-based collaborative group led by an independent non-profit that believes in the power of industry to make packaging more sustainable. Using an objective lifecycle-based approach, it promotes a constructive atmosphere to provide thought leadership and bring members together to strengthen and advocate the business case for more sustainable packaging.
CCE, launched by Closed Loop Partners to serve as a hub for innovators enabling a transition from a take-make-waste economy, views the challenge of multi-material flexible recovery as one that is paramount to achieving a circular economy for packaging. CCE is tackling a similar challenge in its NextGen Cup Challenge, aimed at discovering new, more recoverable fiber cup options, and brings to the FlexPack Recovery Challenge specialized expertise in supporting and accelerating the work of innovators in the packaging and recycling spaces.
Kate Daly, executive director at CCE, added: ‘Collaborative partnerships like this one, bringing together early-stage innovators and industry, are key if we’re to move the needle on this challenging area of package recovery.’
Submissions in the FlexPack Recovery Challenge will be accepted until December 15, 2018, and participation is open to any start-up, university or individual entrepreneur with a pilot-ready reprocessing technology that can recover multi-material flexible packaging in a way that is environmentally beneficial, economically productive and socially just. Finalists will be invited to present their work at an Entrepreneurs Showcase at SPC Impact in Seattle on April 2, 2019. One winner will receive special recognition and celebration on stage at SPC Impact, one year of SPC membership and will join a special mentorship program jointly administered by SPC and CCE.
More information on the FlexPack Recovery Challenge can be found here.