Food giants Kraft and Nestlé have given their backing to a ‘game-changing’ technology that will allow the recovery of aluminum from flexible laminates such as beverage and coffee pouches.
UK based Enval said the two multinational food companies have joined a consortium that will share the capital costs of building a commercial plant to scale up the technology - a world first - that is capable of treating wastes difficult to recycle with conventional recycling processes and, which, up to now, ended up in landfill.
David Boorman, business development director at Enval, a spin-out from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge, speaking to this publication, said that the company is looking for at least four more brand owners to get involved in the consortium to accelerate its recycling technology.
“A lot of food companies do not want to move away from flexible laminates due to the excellent product to packaging ratio they offer. But these have to date been unrecyclable.
Our technology, which has been proven over the past two years through our pilot demonstration plant in Luton, enables complete recovery of aluminium from pouches, laminate tubes and aseptic drink cartons.
Capable of handling material either as scrap from the production and filling processes or post-consumer waste, the Enval process will strongly enhance the green credentials of these types of packaging as well as extend the use of laminate packs,” argues Boorman.
"We believe this new technology has real potential for recycling laminates containing aluminum films," a spokesperson for Nestlé told FoodProductionDaily.com.
Perfecto Perales, senior director, packaging research, development & quality, at Kraft Foods said he "hopeful the Enval Consortium will build on our past successes with other groups that proved effective in driving the collection and re-use of post-consumer flexible packaging waste.”
Boorman confirmed that the new plant will be ‘initially’ located at Enval’s engineering facility in Luton. He said that the build phase has already begun and he expects commissioning and processing of waste at the new plant to start early 2012.
The developers said that aluminum recovery plants, based on Enval technology, will be sold, ultimately, to companies that offer waste handling services.
Though the technology is being scaled up in the UK, Boorman was keen to point out that the company has global ambitions for its novel recovery process. It intends to target the wider European market as well as North America and Asia regions.
Enval’s patented process is the result of a nine-year research project carried out at the University of Cambridge.
“We have developed a continuous process using microwave induced pyrolysis for the complete recycling of laminate waste, recovering 100 per cent of the aluminium present in the laminate, clean and ready to reuse, whilst producing oils and gases suitable for fuel for heat/electricity production or to be used as chemical feedstock in other processes,” said the developer.
As opposed to incineration, the pyrolysis based process takes place without the combustion of the material (in this case the waste) avoiding the production of green-house gases or toxic emissions. Enval added that since the process “uses microwave energy as the source of heat, by using renewable or green electricity we can make the process carbon neutral.”