RecyClass, a platform created by Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) to assess the recyclability of plastic films and improve the design of packaging, carried out tests on the compatibility of the ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) barrier in polyethlene (PE) film with the recycling process.
The tests were carried out in independent laboratories that run analyses on different samples following the procedures of the RecyClass Recyclability Evaluation Protocol for PE films. The findings show that EVOH with a threshold of up to 5 percent of the total weight of the PE film has a minor impact on the recycled material; however, above this limit, an immediate impact on the extrusion process was observed, according to a PRE news release. This results in increased yellowing of the material, a net increase of haze, gels and specks, as well as a frequent bubble breakage.
RecyClass design for recycling guidelines for PE films, as well as the RecyClass tool, will be updated based on the new findings. Accordingly, an EVOH concentration below or equal to 5 percent by weight will be considered as having limited compatibility and an EVOH concentration above 5 percent by weight will be treated as not compatible with recycling.
Within the RecyClass grading system (on the scale from A to F, which resembles the European Union energy efficiency scale), EVOH with a threshold of up to 5 percent of the total weight of the PE film can be ranked maximally as class B1. This class implies that “a package has some minor recyclability issues.”
Functional barriers are used in plastic packaging to protect the goods from any unfavorable external conditions, including exposure to ultraviolet light, oxygen, vapor or odor. They help in keeping goods fresh and prolong their shelf life. Nevertheless, barriers can have a detrimental impact on the quality of recycled material at the end of life of a package.
Today, the industry is actively working on innovative packaging solutions that are not disruptive to the recycling processes. By evaluating the new packaging technologies and providing advice on design, RecyClass helps the industry to ensure recyclability of products on the market.