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BOPP-Film Recycling Pilot Launches in Japan

A triad of plastics companies test a novel “horizontal” method for turning BOPP packaging film into a recycled version of itself.

August 15, 2023

2 Min Read

Three Tokyo-based plastics companies have launched a pilot program to test a new technology for recycling printed biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) film back into new flexible packaging material.

Toppan, Mitsui Chemicals Tohcello, and Mitsui Chemicals are collaborating on the pilot, which recently launched. Pilot testing will position the three companies to commercialize the technology and build infrastructure for horizontally recycling packaging films.

The partners refer to the pilot operation as horizontal recycling because BOPP packaging film is recycled into new BOPP packaging film. According to The Japan Times, “Horizontal recycling refers to recovering and processing used products into raw materials to be used to reproduce the original item.”

Mitsui Chemicals brings to the project its expertise in polypropylene resin, including resin composition, modification, measurement, and analysis; Mitsui Chemicals Tohcello brings BOPP film production technology; and Toppan brings converting technology, including recycled-film expertise.

The pilot follows on Mitsui Chemicals’ launch, in May 2022, of its RePLAYER Renewable Plastics Layer System, which is geared to recovering film waste from flexible-packaging converters, removing ink from the waste film, transforming the remaining material into pellets, and then turning the pellets into new flexible packaging material.

BOPP film is de-inked then processed into pellets. 

For pilot testing, Mitsui Chemicals is recovering BOPP film waste that Toppan generates during print adjustment and other converting processes. Mitsui Chemicals also removes the film’s printing, converts it into pellets, and provides quality control of the resulting recycled product.

Mitsui Chemicals Tohcello makes the pellets into recycled BOPP film, again performing quality control.

Toppan then evaluates the recycled BOPP material’s quality, examining its compatibility with printing, laminating, and converting into pouch packaging. The laminating process Toppan uses to convert the recycled film into packaging incorporates environmentally friendly adhesive supplied by Mitsui Chemicals.

The three companies are targeting 2025 for commercialization of the BOPP film recycling technology. This aligns with Japan’s Resource Circulation Strategy for Plastics, which targets a transition to reusable or recyclable plastics by 2025.

Looking to the future, Japan has set a 2030 goal of 60% reusable or recyclable plastic packaging, and a doubled recycling rate for plastics. The three companies’ new BOPP film recycling technology and their 2025 target for commercialization will pave the way for achieving this level of recycled plastic packaging and plastics recycling by the end of the decade.


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