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Second Quarter 2018
2018 European Thermoforming Conference Report
Over 240 attendees from more than 20 countries arrived in Rome this May for the 11th European Thermoforming Conference hosted by the SPE European Thermoforming Division (ETD). Major themes included the application of Industry 4.0 to thermoforming processes and circular economy initiatives in Europe.
Dr. Amit Dharia of Transmit Technology Group (Sterling, TX) delivered a thought-provoking paper on the application of a new type of test method for thermoforming. Framed as “know how vs. know why”, Dr. Dharia suggested that many thermoforming processors know how to manage their current process, but they do not necessarily know why the heated plastic sheet behaves the way it does in non-isothermal conditions. When compared to injection molding, for example, where melt flow data is standard and well-understood, thermoforming can be considered a solid-state transformation of polymer, meaning that the melt flow index is not a relevant yardstick. The new direct test methodology breaks down the thermoforming process into component parts, each with unique and discrete sets of variables, instead of relying on indirect test methods such as DSC, HDT or hot tensile.
The plastics industry in Europe has been at the forefront of developing circular economy models. According to data from Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE), of the 60MM tons of Europe’s plastics consumption, 40% is packaging-related. Of the 26MM tons of the continent’s plastic waste, 63% is packaging-related. Both figures point to a large opportunity for increased recycling, or continued concern for resource depletion and environmental degradation. They also illustrate the continuing challenges associated with viable economic models for recycling difficult-to-manage materials. End-of-life data shows that 35% of all plastic waste is used for energy recovery (mostly incineration), 25% is collected for recycling, and 40% is landfilled.
Multilayer EVOH/HDPE Packaging in Processing and Performance of Recycled HDPE
The objective of the study was to investigate if multilayer EVOH/HDPE rigid packaging material, which is a percentage of the post-consumer recycling stream, can be effectively sorted with the HDPE stream and decontaminated back to food grade approved for use as Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR)-HDPE into food packaging applications.
Multilayer rigid food packaging found in the postconsumer recycling stream has been represented in the design of materials guides and recycling guides as ‘may be suitable’ for recycling. The present work investigates the recyclability of EVOH barrier packaging due to the growing trends of multilayer rigid food packaging and more importantly, as recovery systems strive towards a better circular economy.
The steps taken to produce food grade rHDPE with analysis included; Audits of the HDPE fraction at Viridor MRF, testing on automated NIR sorting equipment at Tomra (Titech), compounding in a low pressure, elevated temperature, food-grade decontamination process and overall migration testing conducted by Smithers-Pira. The evaluation showed that post-consumer HDPE (rHDPE) material containing at least 0.25% EVOH (equivalent to 5% multilayer EVOH/HDPE packaging) can be “super cleaned” to food grade quality without any significant impact on the process performance or physical properties compared to rHDPE only. The results showed that at the levels of multilayer EVOH packaging typically found in the recycled HDPE stream, the rHDPE can be processed and utilized in a full range of applications, without impact on migration characteristics or physical properties compared to rHDPE alone.
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