A new extended recycling method for deconstructing thin-layer composite packaging and remaking it into materials with near-virgin qualities will be on display by Germany’s Saperatec GmbH at K 2022 in Düsseldorf, Germany, on Oct. 19 to 26.
Following its initial successes, Saperatec is building its first recycling plant for composite packaging made of plastic, aluminum, and paper at its site in Dessau in Saxony-Anhalt. The facility is expected to go online next year and process about 18,000 tons of packaging waste annually.
Recyclate can replace virgin resin in film- and foil-based packaging
The water-based hot-wash fluids Saperatec uses to delaminate composite packaging are solvent free and used more than 30 times. The method, tested in materials science labs and near-industrial pilot trials, produces materials that can replace virgin raw materials, including in film or foil-based packaging. All chemicals used comply with EU food contact regulations.
“In our first industrial plant, we will produce film-grade low-density polyethylene (LDPE) from post-consumer beverage carton waste as well as post-industrial aluminum-composite packaging waste,” said Thorsten Hornung, CEO of Saperatec. “The film-grade rLDPE is targeted — and currently being tested — for non-contact-sensitive packaging applications. Further development toward contact-sensitive applications is planned.”
By avoiding degradation of plastics, Saperatec’s delamination process sends processed waste plastics downstream “at the same qualities common for mechanical recycling,” he explained. “Hence, recycled polymer qualities are generally comparable while being dependent on the waste input composition. Furthermore, the delamination process is designed to protect aluminum foil from oxidation, so we can recover aluminum as metal content greater than 95% with less than 2% aluminum oxide content.”
Process uses standard recycling equipment
Saperatec’s method, from pre-treatment before delamination to refinement afterward, uses standard recycling equipment from well-known suppliers, Hornung added. “The process equipment is configured for the specific types of input. For instance, for beverage carton waste, defibering equipment is used to reduce fiber content to adequate levels for delamination.” Standard equipment — including stirring vessels and de-watering machines — are used in the hot-wash stage, configured specifically to Saperatec’s requirements.
Composite packaging constitutes a significant portion of the more than 140 million tons of plastic packaging waste worldwide that is either incinerated or put in landfills. For its process, Saperatec is sourcing used beverage carton waste (UBC) “from paper mills that have specialized in defibering post-consumer UBC from the German packaging waste collection and sorting system,” Hornung stressed. “For aluminum foil composite packaging waste, we are currently engaged in a project with industry associations and waste-sorting companies to determine the best pathway to supply post-consumer waste from the regular household packaging waste collection and sorting system in Germany. In the first operating phase, the plant will source production waste from converters for this type of waste input,” said Hornung.
Saperatec will demonstrate its delamination process and exhibit prototypes in hall 9 at stand D17.