Aquapak joins CEFLEX to support circular economy

Mission to make all flexible packaging in Europe circular by 2025

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Aquapak
Hydropol resin pellets are produced at Aquapak’s plant in Birmingham, UK

Aquapak Polymers, a material technologies business that has developed Hydropol, a polymer based on PVOH (polyvinyl alcohol), has joined The Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging (CEFLEX) initiative – a collaboration of over 180 European companies, associations and organizations representing the entire value chain of flexible packaging.  Its mission is to make all flexible packaging in Europe circular by 2025.

Membership of CEFLEX will allow Aquapak Polymers to promote the circular economy benefits that Hydropol provides by ensuring that all flexible packaging is effectively and responsibly recycled by developing robust ‘Designing for a Circular Economy’ guidelines so that packaging materials are returned to the economy at the quantity, quality and price for end market applications.

Hydropol is an enabling technology for the circular economy and can be used as a mono-material or in combination with a range of other materials – it is recyclable, biodegradable, compostable with no adverse impacts on the marine environment.  Hydropol can be successfully coated onto plastics, as well as paper and board where it has proven gas and grease barrier properties, with additional functionality such as heat seal and increased paper sheet strength, making it suitable for a range of packaging uses such as bags and pouches.

Hydropol is a thermoplastic polymer, so can be mechanically recycled back into pellets for reuse. This works well in closed capture loops, such as retail, where Hydropol can be collected in bulk. In mixed household plastics recycling, Hydropol can be identified and separated using Infra-Red during sorting.  If this is not available, then hot water will dissolve the Hydropol resin, allowing the recovery of packaging materials without contaminating plastic streams.

Based on CEFLEX’s Designing for a Circular Economy Guidelines which gives practical support and advice on circular economy design principles, Hydropol, when providing barrier properties for polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), it is compatible with today’s CEFLEX guidelines for levels up to 5% by weight (its chemistry of Hydropol is very similar to EVOH) and is deemed compatible with PE and PP mechanical recycling. In addition, CEFLEX is currently evaluating test data from accredited laboratories to confirm that Hydropol is suitable for polyolefin waste streams. 

Mark Lapping, chief executive officer, at Aquapak, said: “We are pleased to be part of the CEFLEX initiative and its drive to make flexible packaging circular by 2025.  The reality of most standard recycling plants across the globe is that currently, they concentrate on two or three plastics that have the largest quantities and therefore the most value when recycled (such as PET).  Hydropol, which is non-toxic and marine safe, is compatible with current recycling infrastructure and offers the industry a way to protect resources and the planet.”

Aquapak develops and manufactures a range of adaptive polymer-based material technologies that deliver both performance and environmental responsibility at scale. For example, it has developed Hydropol, an enabling technology for the circular economy, which is said to be biodegradable, compostable and marine-safe, and used in a range of packaging materials. Aquapak’s HQ and manufacturing center is in Birmingham, UK, with its main geographical markets in the US, EU and Asia.

Who is using Hydropol?

Hydropol, developed and produced by Aquapak, can be made into a highly functional oxygen barrier film for complex packaging which is capable of replacing the most widely used oxygen barrier ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH), as part of a multilayer structure.

Consumers and businesses are increasingly concerned about plastic pollution and environmental sustainability. Packaging producers need solutions. Aquapak has partnered with a growing base of clients in apparel, fashion, hospitality, healthcare, food packaging, logistics packaging, industrial, nonwovens, and other packaging.

The base plastic is currently used for dishwasher tablets, ingestible pill casings and soluble stitches.  Hydropol’s resistance to low-temperature solubility and high barrier to elements adds functionality, providing a wider range of uses.  It can be recycled, re-pulped, and composted and is distinctively compatible with anaerobic digestion.  Furthermore, if unintentionally released into the natural environment, Hydropol – which is non-toxic and marine-safe – will dissolve and subsequently biodegrade, leaving no trace.   

What is Hydropol being used for?

Extrusion coatings and laminates for paper/board applications are commercially available and in customer production trial stages, including a number of home delivery and eCommerce applications, packaging for dried pet food, snacks, cooked meat and convenience food applications.

Blown film products commercially available and made from HydropolTM include garment bags, ESD bags, organic waste disposal bags and laundry bags for infection control.  These can be disposed of at home by the consumer in hot water or added to the recycling where they dissolve during the recycling wash process.

Other applications under development with customers and development partners include injection molded parts such as golf tees, nonwoven fiber for applications such as flushable wet wipes and cellulose combinations for thermoformed trays.

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