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REFLEX UK: the story of going full circle for flexible packaging!

Every solution begins with an idea. And the big innovations that change the world are the result of an idea that
someone caught and ran with.

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The ‘circular economy’– first imagined in the 1970’s – has recently begun to come alive and is being adopted across industry, legislation, and in the minds of consumers. And for us, this is where the story about recycling gets exciting!

“For the packaging industry, the possibilities are limitless as we search for new and better solutions for our world’s challenges,” says Dana Mosora, Director for Sustainability and Advocacy for Dow's Packaging and Specialty Plastics, EMEA.

Flexible packaging now makes up nearly a third of consumer plastic packaging in the UK alone. Yet, much of it ends up in landfill or is incinerated; a sad ending for such a resource-efficient type of packaging.

“We have a responsibility to care about the end life of packaging made with our products, because the sole reason they exist is to improve our lives,” says Dana. “So as a value chain we have to imagine a better future, and then use our expertise to make it happen.”

And this is happening for instance through projects like REFLEX – a two-year collaborative R&D project, co-funded by Innovate UK. The whole value chain is putting heads and hands together with one aim: to create a circular economy for flexible packaging in the UK.

Led by Axion Recycling, the innovative consortium includes global brands Nestlé and Unilever; packaging converters Amcor and Interflex; waste management specialists SUEZ and Tomra Sorting Solutions; and Dow with its hub for collaboration, the Pack Studios facility.

This project is addressing the challenge of developing a circular economy for flexible packaging by providing innovative solutions to the various technical challenges and helping to achieve increased recycling targets set by the European Commission.
And at K 2016, the outcome of the REFLEX project will be presented.

Roger Morton, Director of Axion Recycling says: “We’re demonstrating how state-of-the-art technology in sorting and preparation for recycling can help increase the rate of flexible packaging recycling; and how novel packaging designs and new potential marking techniques may further increase recyclability and efficiency of the whole process.”

Dana adds: “We’re shining a light on each part of the value chain to come up with a better integrated system to collect, sort and recycle flexible plastic packaging.”

The Circular Economy is one example, among others already proven and in place, that it only takes a spark of an idea to start an explosion of innovative thinking and action across the industry. That’s one way of going full circle towards a better, more sustainable future.

For the packaging industry, the possibilities are limitless as we search for new and better solutions for our world’s challenges.

Dana Mosora, Director for Sustainability and Advocacy for Dow's Packaging and Specialty Plastics, EMEA