FlexPack Recovery Challenge open for submissions

The competition invites innovators, entrepreneurs, and startups to submit new ideas for reprocessing technologies capable of beneficially recovering multi-material flexible packaging waste.

Multi-material flexible packaging can consist of upward of nine layers.
Multi-material flexible packaging can consist of upward of nine layers.

The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) have officially launched the FlexPack Recovery Challenge, an open competition for innovators, entrepreneurs, and startups to submit new ideas for reprocessing technologies capable of beneficially recovering multi-material flexible packaging waste. The idea for the challenge began in the SPC’s Industry Leadership Committee on Multi-Material Flexible Recovery, a working group comprising major brands, plastic manufacturers, and packaging suppliers that jointly recognize the opportunity for new recovery technologies.

Multi-material flexible packaging—which can consist of upward of nine layers of plastics, aluminum, adhesives, paper, and other substrates—is widely used for a number of household products, including pet food bags, confectionery wrappers, and chip bags and represents the fastest growing segment within the packaging industry. It tends to provide advantages in cost, material efficiency, and low emissions intensity, but the same characteristics that make it lightweight and effective also present hurdles for recyclers and other recovery outlets. Few technologies exist that can beneficially recover the embodied environmental investment within multi-material flexible packaging, and the FlexPack Recovery Challenge aims to uncover and showcase new technologies that can be scaled to provide meaningful solutions.

“A system of sustainable packaging requires an effective, robust means of recovering the inherent value in all packaging waste, and novel, potentially unheard of recovery solutions will be needed to complete the sustainability story for this important packaging category,” says Adam Gendell, Associate Director, Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

The Center for the Circular Economy, launched by Closed Loop Partners to serve as a hub for innovators enabling the transition from a take-make-waste economy, views the challenge of multi-material flexible recovery as one that is paramount to achieving a circular economy for packaging. The eenter is tackling a similar challenge in its NextGen Cup Challenge, aimed at discovering new, more recoverable fiber cup solutions, and brings to the FlexPack Recovery Challenge specialized expertise in supporting and accelerating the work of innovators in the packaging and recycling spaces.

“We are delighted to partner with our Innovation Partner, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, on the FlexPack Recovery Challenge,” says Kate Daly, Executive Director, Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “Collaborative partnerships like this one, bringing together early-stage innovators and industry, are key if we’re to move the needle on this challenging area of package recovery.”

Submissions in the FlexPack Recovery Challenge will be accepted until Dec. 15, 2018, and participation is open to any startup, university, or individual entrepreneur with a pilot-ready reprocessing technology that can recover multi-material flexible packaging in a way that is environmentally beneficial, economically productive, and socially just. Finalists will be invited to present their work at an Entrepreneurs Showcase at SPC Impact in Seattle, WA on April 2, 2019, and one winner will receive special recognition and celebration on stage at SPC Impact and one year of SPC membership, and will join a special mentorship program jointly administered by the Center for the Circular Economy and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

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