In 2014, the total waste generated within the EU-28 amounted to 2 598 million tonnes (Eurostat); more than 200 millions tonnes of which are municipal solid waste (MSW). This amount of waste generated was the highest for the EU-28 on record.

According to the data provided by Plastic-Europe, during 2015 the demand of raw plastic material by the main market sectors in UE-28 plus No/CH was high as 49 millions of tonnes and 39,9% of which correspond to packaging sector needs. This data show the importance of the packaging sector compared to other sectors like consumer goods, or health with 22,4%, building and construction materials 19,7%, automotive 8,9%, electrical and electronic 5,8% and agriculture 3,3%.

This high demand of plastics materials for packaging is a consequence of our fast-moving world, the “use and throw away” culture and the new consumer habits. Over the last decade we have been getting used to see stands in supermarkets full of packaged goods such as sausages, meat, pizzas, fruit, pre-cooked and frozen food, etc. easy to cook and ready to eat, where the envelope protects and preserves the good from the agents of the environment that could degrade the food quality and properties. Also in the pharmaceutical sector we find as well blister packs for medicines and other types of packaging combining different plastics or metals also called multilayer or complex layer packages.

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Multilayer or complex layer packages are becoming more and more common in our everyday lives. When we think of reintroducing this stream of multilayer material that has become a waste during or after the industrial process (discards) or after consuming the goods contained in the plastic package (MSW) we face a very complex problem. This waste requires a multipart recovery process due to the combination of various types of materials in the different plastic packages, so it is needed a sorting step, also the presence of several polymers and resins within the same plastic package makes very complex the separation, recovery and valorization of this multilayer plastics with the current commercial recycling techniques

The source of this plastic waste can be:

  • Multilayer film manufactures. Where we can get discards called “Industrial waste”
  • Thermo-formers and food packers whose discards are “post-industrial waste”
  • Sorting MSW plants, where the multilayer plastic packages are sorted as “post-consumer waste”

Nowadays, the post-consumer multilayer waste generated in households, which is 15% of MSW total plastic waste, is sent to landfill, due to the lack of a specific profitable industry dedicated to the recovery and valorization of these plastic waste.

As a result, European governments have begun to take action on issues of packaging waste and recycling. The last directives from the EU government, “Directive 94/62/EEC, of Packaging and packaging waste” and “Directive 2008/98/EEC, Waste Framework Directive”, lay down ambitious goals on recycling which national governments must face in order to accomplish with the objectives of waste reduction and recycling aimed to achieve 0 deposit by year 2030.

In order to meet this challenge, the LIFE rPack2L project, approved within the framework of the “Environment & Resource Efficiency” action line of the LIFE Program, is aimed at promoting the development and implementation of legislation and policies enabling a better management and recycling of multi-layer packaging waste in the EU-28.