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Recycled LLDPE Process Gains FDA Okay

Converters can use Nova Chemical’s rLLDPE to produce packaging with up to 100% recycled content for a range of foods.

Kate Bertrand Connolly 1, Freelance Writer

June 24, 2024

3 Min Read
Pouch made with food-grade recycled LLDPE
Nova Chemicals

At a Glance

  • Nova Chemical’s Indiana plant will use mechanical recycling to produce PCR rLLDPE for packaging.
  • The rLLDPE will process similarly to conventional LLDPE in converting operations.
  • Novolex will operate the plant and collect film to be recycled.

Nova Chemicals has received a US FDA Letter of No Objection (LNO) for the plastic-film recycling process at its Connersville, IN, mechanical recycling facility, confirming the plant’s ability to produce post-consumer recycled linear low-density polyethylene (rLLDPE) for food-contact packaging applications.

Calgary, Alberta-based Nova will produce Syndigo brand rLLDPE at the Connersville facility using post-consumer and -retail plastic film as input. According to Nova, it is the first company to receive an FDA LNO to produce rLLDPE for broad food-contact applications.

Syndigo rLLDPE is Nova’s second recycled polyethylene (rPE) to be approved for food packaging. The company launched Syndigo rPE-0860-FC, its first FDA-compliant, recycled high-density polyethylene (rHDPE), in March 2023.

Converters will be able to use Nova’s rLLDPE to produce packaging incorporating up to 100% recycled content for all food types — pantry, refrigerated, and frozen items — as well as non-food products. LLDPE is often the material of choice for shrink wrap, stretch film, pouches, bags, and films used in food packaging.

Drop-in replacement for LLDPE.

Processing the rLLDPE will be similar to converting conventional LLDPE into film and packaging.

“Syndigo rLLDPE from Connersville will generally process like most other LLDPE products with a similar melt index and density,” says Alan Schrob, director of mechanical recycling, Nova Circular Solutions, though “there may be potential small adjustments that are required.”

Related:Nova Chemicals, Pregis Develop Recycled Polyethylene Food Packaging

Converters experienced in using post-consumer recycled (PCR) material “will see the incorporation of rLLDPE from Connersville to be relatively straightforward,” Schrob adds. For “customers that are new to PCR, Nova has extensive knowledge and experience in applications development and technical expertise in a variety of converting technologies, and we encourage consultation with our experts to ensure seamless qualification and operation.”


Film collection with chain-of-custody.

Novolex, which will operate the Connersville plant, will leverage its relationships with retailers and distribution centers in the region to collect plastic films for processing. The company will collect stretch film/pallet wrap and shrink wrap for recycling into Nova’s FDA-compliant material.

“We will also be collecting the following for use in a whole host of other applications: PE carry-out bags and plastic mailer bags; heavy-duty shipping sacks and air pillows; [and] pellet, mulch, and ice bags,” Schrob says.

Tracking the incoming material will play an important role in recycling operations. “Chain of custody is critical for food-packaging applications,” Schrob says. To “incorporate rLLDPE into food-contact applications, you must know the history of the feedstock that is used to make the resin. It must have been made from food-contact-compliant polyethylene and free of any potential additives that are not compliant in food packaging.”

The recycler must know the application the feedstock was used in prior to recycling to understand potential exposures and ensure that any residual surface contamination can be removed.

“Nova works very closely with the generators of plastic feedstock to develop protocols and procedures to ensure and validate the origination, handling, and use of the materials that we will use in producing rLLDPE,” Schrob says. “Nova will routinely audit the sources and test the feedstock materials to ensure compliance with the LNO provisions.”

The Connersville plant represents Nova’s first investment in a mechanical recycling facility. Construction of the plant is underway, with operations expected to start in early 2025. When it becomes fully operational in early 2026, the facility is expected to produce more than 100 million lb of Syndigo rPE.

Nova plans to expand its recycling activities in the next several years to reach a 2030 goal of 30% recycled content as a share of its total PE sales.

About the Author(s)

Kate Bertrand Connolly 1

Freelance Writer

Kate Bertrand Connolly has been covering innovations, trends, and technologies in packaging, branding, and business since 1981.

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