Global packaging company Sidel joined R-Cycle to accelerate the recycling of plastic packaging. Using an open tracing standard, R-Cycle allows for the gathering of information about the recycling-related properties of plastic packaging (www.r-cycle.org), according to a company news release. These details, stored on a common data platform, can be accessed and recorded by any production machinery along the value chain, from packaging manufacturers and converters to the recycling industry. Waste-sorting lines can then identify recyclable packaging and pure materials for reprocessing into a wide range of high-grade plastic products.
Sidel has more than 5,000 workers worldwide and is a global provider of packaging solutions for beverage, food, home, and personal care products in polyethylene terephthalate (PET), cans, glass, and other materials. It has 40,000 machines in more than 190 countries.
Sidel wanted to build upon its key role in bringing the circular economy to life, says Francesca Bellucci, Sidel’s sustainability portfolio director for product innovation and marketing. “Having a global standard that connects partners from around the world across the plastic packaging life cycle to record and retrieve all relevant packaging properties will hugely benefit product sustainability,” Bellucci said in a news release. “It will improve manufacturing processes, as well as the quality of recyclates, resulting in the implementation of a genuinely circular economy.”
Currently, recyclable plastic packaging cannot be separated precisely enough from waste streams to achieve high-quality recycling, and this has been a significant factor in current low recycling rates—only 9% of plastic waste is ultimately recycled, according to a February 2022 report from Global Plastics Outlook.
There are two acknowledged barriers to effective plastics recycling. One is creating more fully recyclable packaging—an area in which Sidel is helping customers advance by fostering PET adoption, the most recycled plastic material available to date. The other is increasing the sophistication of the recycling processes, which is R-Cycle’s key focus.
R-Cycle will benefit manufacturers worldwide by improving process efficiency and product quality. Having precise information about source materials helps speed up production. “It is great to see how our community is constantly growing with forward-looking partners from the packaging industry who are uniting their high innovative strength under the R-Cycle flag,” said Benedikt Brenken, R-Cycle director, in a news release. “Sidel is contributing important impetus here and its clear commitment to a functioning circular economy.”
Making Recycling More Effective
Several technology companies and organizations from across the life cycle chain of plastic packaging developed R-Cycle. Sidel will contribute to further development, as a leading provider of solutions for the packaging of beverages, food, home, and personal care products.
This “digital product passport” will also help with compliance and in providing the information needed to meet current and future requirements from customers and legislators, such as calculating carbon footprint, and in extended producer responsibility, a policy approach to make producers responsible for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products.
R-Cycle also offers a viable solution to the European Union’s Circular Economy Action Plan, which seeks traceability of plastic packaging to ensure its recyclability, including tracking and managing information about resources, and the digitization of product data.
How R-Cycle Works
R-Cycle’s open tracing standard permits seamless documentation stored on a common data platform that can be accessed by any production facility, from plastic film or injection/blow molding machines to converting and filling machines to waste sorting and recycling lines.
It enables a material’s recycling-related properties to be captured and made retrievable via an appropriate marker such as a digital watermark or QR code on the packaging. The underlying tracing technology behind R-Cycle is based on GS1 standards, the leading global network for cross-industry process development. It already is being used by various industries worldwide, for example in tracing fresh food products. “By connecting all value-added partners along the cycle, R-Cycle is the basis for obtaining high-quality recyclates to establish a working circular economy,” Bellucci said in a news release.