- Amcor announced a memorandum of understanding for the purchase of mechanically recycled PE resin for use in flexible packaging films from Nova Chemicals’ forthcoming plant in Connersville, Indiana.
- Amcor aims to incorporate 30% recycled content across its portfolio by 2030. Likewise, Nova is working to have 30% of its total PE sales come from products containing recycled content by 2030.
- The Indiana plant, announced in July, is five months into construction and on time for the first line to start up at the beginning of 2025, with all four lines expected to operate by the end of that year, said Alan Schrob, director of mechanical recycling at Nova Chemicals. “We can't wait until Connersville is up and running for us to consider future investments and constructing new facilities, or even potentially M&A activity as well,” he said. “We've learned a lot from the designing and engineering of this facility that we'll be able to incorporate into every future build.”
Nova Chemicals’ first such rPE plant, which is expected to deliver 100 million pounds of rPE annually, will be operated by packaging manufacturer Novolex. “We realized, maybe three or four years ago, that the need and requirements to be able to incorporate recycled materials into packaging products is coming hard and it's coming fast,” Schrob said. In the ramp up, Nova is working to understand the recycled content needs of brands and packaging manufacturers, Schrob explained.
In sustainability reports and conference discussions, some companies have pointed to higher cost of recycled materials or imbalances in supply and demand as limiting factors to purchasing more recycled material. Schrob described the market as “very nascent.”
“It’s not very mature in terms of how the market views the feedstock for recycled materials, and then ultimately the finished product of those materials,” Schrob said. Nova sees demand for these products increasing, which is poised to spur investment and broader use of these materials.
In Amcor’s fiscal year 2023, the company reported purchasing approximately 200,000 metric tons of recycled resin and aluminum — or 7% of total materials purchased and 8.5% of total resin purchased.
“This is an exciting opportunity for us to supplement our rPE supply in support of our target to achieve 30% recycled material usage across our global portfolio by 2030,” said Fred Stephan, president of Amcor Flexibles North America, in a statement. “Incorporating rPE into flexible packaging films helps brand owners meet voluntary commitments on recycled content targets, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and keep plastic waste in the economy and out of the environment.”
Amcor has also set up agreements to source advanced recycled materials from petrochemical companies including SK Geo Centric and ExxonMobil. It’s also supporting the construction of a Licella advanced recycling facility in Australia.
Nova foresees a future in which both mechanical and chemical recycling play a role. “Every one of the brands and retailers are doing their own detailed and deep research and analysis to understand how advanced recycling and mechanical recycling can fit into their strategies. We were doing the same thing,” Schrob said. “Our view is mechanical recycling can take care of a lot of the requirements that our customers and their customers require in terms for the performance, economics and quality that they're going to be looking for in a wide range of different applications.”
Schrob said there needs to be more collaboration among suppliers of virgin materials, recyclers of those materials, packaging converters and brands. “It takes the entire value chain to really understand how these materials can be incorporated into into packaging products, to be able to meet sustainability and circularity goals. And the products exist, and they're out there and we're looking to be able to grow and do that,” Schrob said.