Friedrichshafen, Germany — Starlinger & Co. GmbH is adapting technology that will provide a simpler, lower-cost approach to completely closing the loop when recycling polyolefins for food-grade applications.
Along with allowing for up to 100 percent recycled content in packaging, the new method also will cut the cost of processing, said Armin Villa, regional sales manager for Starlinger, while on the Fakuma trade show floor in Friedrichshafen.
Starlinger has just received letters of no objection from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to utilize its recycled pellet reconditioning system created earlier with odor reduction in mind to help boost polyolefin recycling capabilities for food-grade applications.
Adaptations of the system now allow customers to close the loop and use 100 percent recycled content for high density polyethylene milk bottles and HDPE caps through the FDA letters of nonobjection. Previous approaches limited recycled content to 50 percent.
A key to the new approach is that recyclers need to know where the HDPE has been and how the material has been used.
"It only works on materials where you can ensure the traceability is given of the materials," Villa said.
The reconditioning system was developed in recent years to remove suborn odors from recycled HDPE bottles holding products like detergents and shampoos.
"All materials where there still might be a smell in it," Villa said. The changes now allow for food-grade resin recycling at 100 percent.
"That's what we've been focusing on — trying to improve the processes, not only quality but also to make it more interesting for the market," Villa said. "A simple process, which is proven technologywise, but upgrading it, that you can go with the same process for not only odor reduction but also go into some material applications for food."
The entire recycling process being touted by Starlinger includes three main steps: material preparation, highly efficient degassing and post-treatment pellet treatment.
"Compared to methods which merely bind odors through the use of additives and thereby enclose them in the final pellet, the Starlinger process removes the foreign substances that cause the smell and delivers permanently smell-improved pellets," the company said in a statement.
Starlinger has offered used solid-state polycondensation reactor technology, more typically used for PET, as an approach to allow for 50 percent recycled content in polyolefins.