Plastic recycling innovation receives funding boost with global prize

Research into developing new sustainable ways to decontaminate plastic packaging for recycling has been given a boost with $3m funding after winning a global prize.

The University of Nottingham’s School of Chemistry is part of the COtooCLEAN multi-participant project by Nextex Ltdwhich has won the Alliance Prize in Circular Solutions for Flexibles.

Researchers are developing a disruptive waterless, non-toxic cleaning process for polyolefin films that are commonly used for packaging edible and non-edible goods. The process is based on using low-pressure super-critical CO2(scCO2) combined with green co-solvents to remove oils, fats and printing inks and will fill a gap in the recycling stream that is currently missing.

This new process was one of around 600 bids for the Alliance Prize which was whittled down to five finalists. Following a final pitch at the New York Stock Exchange, Nextex was awarded the prestigious prize of $3m to fast-track CotooCLEAN’s ground breaking process to decontaminate post-consumer plastic films back to food-grade quality. Professor Edward Kosior, founder of Nextex accepted the prize and commented: “We now have the potential to make a major contribution to the circularity of films in a global context.”

Professor Steve Howdle, Head of School of Chemistry, University of Nottingham is leading the scientific research that is being undertaken in collaboration with Unilever, Amcor, Viridor, Allied Bakeries, SUPREX and Bangor University.

The School of Chemistry is delighted to be a key part of this project working with a large industrial consortium focussed on packaging and recycling. The sustainable methodologies we are developing have the potential to revolutionise the recycling of food packaging and contribute to a cleaner, greener society.

The unique commercial process being developed can be intergrated into mechanical recycling operations and can treat printed and multi-layer films to make them much easier to recycle.

Steve Sikra, AEPW VP Americas, Alliance to End Plastic Waste said: “The CotooCLEAN process offers an impactful solution for the hight levels of flexible film waste growing around the world. By enabling food-grade film-to-film advanced mechanical recycling, the process will improve circularity of flexible films by diverting filmwaste from landfill and lesser value outlets.

“The relatively simple modificationd to the existing mechanical recycling process makes the potential impact of COtooCLEAN even greater because of its scalability to global adoption over time.”

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