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New research program to develop circular plastics packaging

Plastic packaging materials used in supermarkets should be better recycled and subsequently reused in the packaging industry. This will result in a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and contribute to a more circular economy. This idea is at the core of a new Brightlands Materials Center research program which aims to accelerate the development of new circular packaging solutions. To achieve this, the new program focuses on better polymer material choices in order to create plastic packaging with enhanced recyclability.

Packaging materials used to protect and preserve foods and other products are a challenge for the chain of recycling due to the combined use of different materials. In the new Program on Circular Packaging, Brightlands Materials Center utilises extensive polymer materials and processing knowledge generated in its other research programs. The first project within the new research program aims to design new packaging films that are less complex and to enable the ‘harvesting’ of polymers from the packaging during mechanical and dissolution recycling methods. The newly recycled materials – in this case, polyolefins – can then be reused as raw materials in new, high-quality plastic products.

The launch of the new Program on Circular Packaging marks Brightlands Materials Center’s fifth  anniversary. The center is a joint initiative of TNO, the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, and the Province of Limburg. The vision is to accelerate the transition to sustainable and circular plastic packaging solutions in order to support the global climate goals, prevent waste and reduce the use of fossil resources.

Caroli Buitenhuis, Business Development Manager for the new Program on Circular Packaging: “Many packaging solutions in the supermarket are very difficult to recycle. We need to rethink the packaging material design process and the packaging value chain in order to come to sustainable value chain solutions that meet both functionality and recyclability requirements.”

Marinke Wijngaard, Managing Director Circular Economy and Environment at TNO: “This new activity fits in extremely well with our ambitions to strongly support the societal transition to a circular economy using our expertise in many fields.”

Bert Kip, CEO of Brightlands Chemelot Campus: “The new circular packaging program of Brightlands Materials Center is an important new milestone in becoming the most sustainable chemistry and materials location in the world. This includes responding to the urgent need for circular solutions based on renewable and recycled feedstock.”

Ruud Burlet, Regional Minister of the Province of Limburg: “Waste does not exist; plastic packaging will be a new source of raw materials in the near future. Brightlands Materials Center will support the creation of this future.”