INEOS Olefins and Polymers Europe has today announced that it will join NEXTLOOPPoverall winner of Packaging Europe’s Sustainability Awards 2021 – to deliver new grades of polypropylene (PP) incorporating recycled content, which the companies are aiming to have certified for food contact.

INEOS will be at the centre of a two-year project that will inform the building of a demonstration plant in the UK to produce 10,000 tonnes of food-grade recycled PP annually.

From its manufacturing base in Grangemouth, Scotland, alongside its product and technical expertise from across Europe, INEOS will help to tailor food-grade recycled PP to the precise specifications of converters. According to the company, this will be done by blending it with virgin PP to modify its mechanical and processing properties, and introducing processing aids to help converters meet exact requirements.

In order to comply with UK Plastic Pact targets, the ‘hybrid resin’ must contain at least 30% post-consumer recycled content. These guidelines are set to be introduced in April 2022, with companies facing tax levies if they do not comply.   

The project aims to validate the food-grade recycled PP manufacturing process and its commercial viability, with the aim of receiving acceptance from the UK’s Food Standard Agency (FSA) and European equivalent (EFSA).

Graham MacLennan, polymer business manager at INEOS O&P UK, explains: “Polypropylene is one of the most versatile plastics in the world – it is also missing from our recycling streams in food contact applications.

“In the UK alone we use over 210,000 tonnes of PP in our food packaging every year. It is found in pots, tubs, and trays.

“However, the absence of food-grade recycled polypropylene means that all PP food packaging is currently made from virgin plastics.

“This isn’t unique to the UK but a large global issue that INEOS and its partners are determined to change.”

Last year, INEOS collaborated on a solution for UHT milk bottles produced with PP that is derived from post-consumer recycled material.

Professor Edward Kosior, founder and CEO of Nextek Ltd and NEXTLOOP, adds of the latest partnership: “INEOS’ commitment to reducing the world’s reliance on virgin plastics and closing the loop on such a prolific polymer as food-grade PP will help create a more circular economy, reduce CO2 emissions and create new materials for brand owners.

“NEXTLOOPP looks forward to achieving the goal of creating a long term solution for PP packaging, enabling all stakeholders to confidently participate in recycling and contributing to a better outcome for all.”