GreenPack project has been financed by the European Commission and aims to radically change the market of food trays. Research activities officially started on the 1st of December 2013 under Grant Agreement no. 605698 with the Research Executive Agency of the European Commission.
The main objective of the GREENPACK Consortium is producing prototypes of fully recyclable 100% PET trays for food preservation also by using recycled PET (RPET). PET trays will be designed for low-oxygen application and barrier properties will be based on specifically designed additives. The target is a mono-material fully-transparent tray which could be recycled for producing new trays.
A secondary goal of the project is designing and dissemination of a dedicated recycling model, inspired towards the replication and spreading of the recycling model of the 100% PET soft drink bottles, in the post-consumer phase, adapting its characteristics to the specific food package features.
The main drawbacks of the current solutions for the PET trays’ manufacturing are due essentially to the presence of different plastic materials in the packages. Being manufactured by sticking different layers of different plastic materials, PET included, the final package shows low recyclability. The multi-material feature poses severe limitations to an effective recycling not only for the trays at the end of their life but also for the manufacturing scraps. This is a dramatic reality for the economic and social development of EU because of the involved loss of raw materials, CO2 footprint, landfill management.
From a theoretical point of view, the goal of having a fully recyclable PET container for food packaging is surely feasible. The environmental effect would be very positive: the manufacture of each ton of PET produces around 3 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Nevertheless, this result is far from being obtained because of the absence of a proper combination of innovative technical solutions and systematic studies.
The 10 steps to reach the solution:
1. The use of an additive to have oxygen barrier properties of the PET;
2. The definition of a multi-layered structure for the packaging sheets, using a single base material (PET, virgin and recycled, RPET);
3. The development of a laboratory scale extrusion line for the production of prototypes of food containers;
4. The study of the barrier properties of the final RPET sheets;
5. The study of the fabrication effect for additivated RPET sheets (mainly on the aesthetics and other functional properties);
6. The study of the processability of the multi-layered mono-material sheets;
7. The study of the combination with virgin PET for the film in contact with the food;
8. The shelf life assessment of the new PET container;
9. The definition of a recycling strategy for the final container;
10. The LCA (Life Cycle Assessment).