A collaboration between Sealed Air, ExxonMobil, Cyclyx International and grocery retail group Ahold Delhaize USA, launched last year has achieved its goal, the companies have announced.
At the time, the four partners were exploring the potential of chemical recycling for the development of food packaging, working across the value chain to demonstrate how high-performance packaging materials could be designed to be remade. They have now successfully launched a circular food packaging proof of concept using advanced recycling.
During the pilot, plastic waste was collected from selected Ahold Delhaize USA’s Food Lion stores. One of the five brands that comprise the Ahold Delhaize USA network, Food Lion boasts more than 1,100 stores across 10 states.
“Across Ahold Delhaize USA companies, we have ambitious goals around recyclable and reusable packaging,” said Adam Springer, manager, Product Sustainability, Ahold Delhaize USA. “Based on the initial pilot, we’re optimistic about being able to leverage this process at additional scale and look forward to exploring it further as part of this collaboration.”
Cyclyx, a joint venture between Agilyx Corporation and ExxonMobil, was responsible for sorting and pre-processing the waste packaging materials collected from the Food Lion stores, before delivering them to ExxonMobil’s Baytown, Texas facility. “The interface between the Food Lion stores and the Baytown facility was critical and required an innovative approach to feedstock management,” said Joe Vaillancourt, CEO, Cyclyx. “Part of our process is to identify the chemical composition of the waste plastics we receive. This allows us to create custom blends of post-use plastic feedstock that are tailored to the specifications required for advanced recycling.”
The sorted waste was processed at the Baytown facility, using ExxonMobil’s Exxtend technology for advanced recycling, breaking down the plastic waste to its molecular building blocks. A thermal pyrolysis technology, the process yields pyrolysis oil, or naphtha-like products to be used in the production of new mass-balanced products. Mass balance is an accepted method, certified by the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification scheme (ISCC), to measure and track recycled inputs and outputs. Mass balance allows brands to report the percentage of recycled content that is allocated to manufactured products.
“The technology provides a reliable source to attribute to high-performance, certified-circular polymers,” said Dan Moore, vice president, Polyethylene, ExxonMobil. “Advanced recycling is making the impossible possible and is an important enabler to support a circular economy.”
Sealed Air converted the certified-circular PE resins into food-grade flexible film that is used, in the case of this proof of concept, to package select Nature’s Promise fresh poultry. The packaging then returns to stores used on products purchased by customers, demonstrating an example of the circular economy.
To help meet the growing market demand for certified-circular plastics, ExxonMobil plans to increase its annual advanced recycling capacity to 500,000 metric tons by year-end 2026 across multiple sites globally.