Recycling is the smartest environmental choice we can make

Increasing the use of recycled plastic is a must for the future. Focusing on the plastic found in consumer packaging, in 2017 RISE founded a project that will lead to an increased share of recycled plastic in packaging – and a substantial increase at that. It all began with an innovation competition that evolved into an innovative collaboration between RISE, Essity, ICA and Trioplast. The result will be a closed loop for use.

RISE is a government research institute that offers hundreds of test and demonstration environments to future-proof technologies, products and services. RISE also has the necessary expertises to find solutions that will stand the test of time. “The project basically grew out of an innovation competition in the summer of 2017. ICA and Essity’s role was to specify the requirements for the recycled plastic that entrants were to submit. In the end, the German company RSH Polymer won and now supplies Trioplast with the material the company uses in its production,” says Johan Landberg, a project manager at RISE.

Collaboration between research and industry is extremely important to the end result
ICA is a major player in the Swedish food industry. This is an industry that generally has high ambitions when it comes to using recycled material in consumer packaging.
“By 2030, plastic packaging is to be made from recycled or fossil-free material. This is a goal jointly set by the members of the Swedish Food Retailers Federation,” says Julia Losciale, a packaging specialist at ICA with a focus on sustainability.
“We’ve collaborated with ICA for many years, and it was ICA that made contact when the Vinnova-funded project kicked off,” says Bengta Hallberg, Assortment Manager at Essity. That contact resulted in Trioplast, which is Essity’s principal plasticsupplier for its production facility in Lilla Edet, also joining the project.
 “One stand-out feature of this collaboration is the ambition to achieve common goals. Trioplast’s involvement has enabled us to test new films in our own production, which has benefited the project immensely. At present, our films are 60% recycled, 20% biomass and 20% oil-based,” says Bengta.

Strict requirements for recycled material
“The core aim of the project was to conduct chemical analyses on the recycled material to see whether we were able to detect any regulated chemicals, as well as to examine the chemical composition of a larger number of batches from the supplier,” says Kristin Geidenmark Olofsson, Innovation, Sustainability & CSR Director at Trioplast. She explains that they have followed the strict requirements of the EU chemicals regulation REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) when conducting the tests. “Testing the chemical composition of packaging is something quite new in the EU, so thanks to this project we were actually the first to do this.”
“Of course, the fact that we sell food affects the complexity surrounding the packaging. Food safety is top priority for us, and so the material in the packaging must comply with all the strict requirements set by both us and the Swedish Food Agency,” says Julia from ICA. As such, the outcome and results of the tests were positively received.
“We’ve tested placing recycled material in the middle layers of the packaging, and the tests showed no traces of chemicals. This means that the recycled material that we’ve tested does in fact fulfil the applicable food requirements, and so it could be used in certain types of food packaging,” says Kristin from Trioplast.

Industry and brand owners shoulder the responsibility for packaging
Some years ago, RISE and ICA collaborated on another recycled plastic project. “Together with RISE, we developed a soft soap bottle made from 100% recycled plastic from Sweden. This really shows our direction and the ambitions we have in terms of the use of recycled plastics,” says Julia, who believes it is important to promote recycled materials in order to increase consumer demand. She says that consumers express considerable concern about the impact of plastics on the environment. However, are they willing to pay a little more for packaging that reduces environmental impact? “When it comes to packaging and the associated environmental responsibility, that responsibility must fall to the industry and brand owners such as ourselves, not the consumer. We must offer customers the best available choice for the environment,” says Julia.