Nextek Ltd. project to address food-grade polypropylene recycling

Nextloopp separates food-grade PP packaging using marker technologies.

Nextek Ltd., a London-based firm that provides expertise in the design, optimization, processing and recycling of plastics, has launched Nextloopp, which it describes as a global multipartipant project designed to address polypropylene (PP) recycling.

According to Nextek, PP accounts for roughly 20 percent of the world’s plastic. It is used to make pots, tubs, trays and films for food packaging as well as in nonfood household and personal care products. The company says 700,000 metric tons are used annually in the U.K. alone. The lack of food-grade recycled PP (FGrPP) means that PP food packaging is made from virgin plastics.

Nextloopp will use commercially proven technologies that include markers to separate food-grade PP, according to Nextek. These technologies also include decontamination stages to ensure compliance with food-grade standards in the EU and the USA. 

Major organizations, including brand owners, suppliers, universities and industry associations, have joined Nextloopp to produce high-quality FGrPP that will be available in the U.K. by 2022, Nextek says.

Professor Edward Kosior, founder and CEO of Nextek, says creating a circular economy for food-grade PP packaging fills the enormous gap in the packaging recycling sector. “It will allow brand owners to meet their recycling targets and significantly reduce the use of virgin plastics from petrochemicals. It will also greatly reduce CO2 emissions and divert waste from landfill and waste-to-energy.”

U.K.-based WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) has confirmed that the U.K. Plastics Pact supports the Nextloopp project. WRAP’s Acting Director of Insights and Innovation Claire Shrewsbury says that finding a way to successfully recycle food-contact PP is a key challenge. “Achieving this will enable U.K. Plastics Pact members to reach the target of an average of 30 percent recycled content across all packaging by 2025. WRAP believes that Nextloopp offers a potential solution to this, and we will work closely with the other stakeholders to develop the project further.”

Viridor’s Director of Business Development (Polymers) Luke Burgess says the company’s participation in the food-grade trial is in line with Viridor’s ongoing commitment to the U.K. circular economy. “Viridor believes that extending its polymers expertise and recycling experience to cross-sector collaboration and innovation is key to ensuring more waste is valued as a resource and returns to the circular economy where it belongs,” he says. “Reducing our reliance on virgin plastic not only empowers greater circularity but the continued use of recycled material also offers significant energy savings, contributing to considerable wider environmental benefits for the U.K.”

“Nextloopp is absolutely aligned with Robinson’s goals and those of our customers for closed-loop solutions, as well as governmental circular economy targets," says Lubna Edwards, group sustainability and marketing director at U.K.-based Robinson Packaging. "Demand for this high-value recycled material will continue to rise as we shift away from using virgin material. Much of our U.K. business depends upon PP, and this ground-breaking project gives us the opportunity to tap into cutting-edge technology, learn from industry partners and trial the material for sustainable use in our packaging.”

Andrew Fisher, managing director of leading U.K.-based plastic packaging manufacturer Sharpak Yate, says: “As part of the Guillin Group, Sharpak has recyclability in its DNA. Nextloopp is an industry-leading initiative, and we are proud to be collaborating with this multi-participant project.”

“Capturing the value of plastics by keeping them within the economy and out of our natural environment is key to meeting the Plastics Pact targets and very much part of our business strategy," says Adam Elman, group sustainability director at London-based Klockner Pentaplast. "Swapping the traditional ‘take-make-waste’ linear model for a circular system is also one of the many important steps towards significantly reducing our carbon emissions. We are proud to be working in collaboration with Nextloopp on this important project.”

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