Innovative technology to recycle post-consumer waste plastic film

Accelerating flexible plastic film recycling

One of four winners of the 2020 Ecosurety Exploration Fund, the BOSS-2D project has built on the proven innovation of the Baffled Oscillation Separation System (BOSS), previously used to successfully sort rigid plastics. If the vast array of flexible plastic film used as packaging wrappers can be accurately and efficiently sorted into uncontaminated, material specific waste streams, they can be recycled instead of being mainly incinerated. BOSS-2D is enabling that to happen for the first time.

The least recycled material

Just 4% of post-consumer flexible plastic film is currently recycled in the UK, by far the lowest percentage recycling by category. This compares to 50% for plastic bottles. Existing state of the art technology cannot easily identify laminate and multi-layer material, which together can account for up to 20% of the post-consumer flexible plastic film fraction. With no automated separation solution available on the market, film is either sent for incineration or exported to overseas markets.

Harmful contaminants

Laminate and multi-layer plastic film, which often looks identical to single layer film, are harmful contaminants in the recycling process if unsorted - clogging screens, interrupting production and preventing film recycling on a large scale.

If not recycled or incinerated, the unsorted plastic film is exported. Export channels are narrowing however, as a result of more scrutiny on the part of the Environment Agency in the UK. Shipments are also being returned by foreign governments who rightly no longer want to deal with waste from first world countries ending up in landfill and waterways, creating long term local and international environmental problems.

Trapped in a linear economy

Because plastic film cannot be easily recycled, the elements of the post-consumer plastic film packaging supply chain in the UK - manufacture, consumption and disposal - act independently from one another in a single-use linear economy model, with no link to create a circular alternative.

Recycled material must also meet high purity standards to be considered as a replacement for virgin polymer. All together this explains why virgin polymer is the most widely used material for plastic film packaging in the consumer goods industry today. 



A viable solution, sorted

The BOSS-2D project completed in September 2021 after only nine months, resulting in a large scale prototype rigorously trialled using real-world batches of post-consumer mixed flexible plastic waste. The prototype rig is capable of separating mono-layer polyolefin films from batches of mixed post-consumer flexible plastic film, to purities of up to 95+%, at a rate of two tonnes per hour.

Refining the process further

Now that BOSS-2D can accurately separate mono-layer and multi-layer post-consumer flexible plastic film, further refinements are planned to additionally separate the monolayer stream into separate polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) streams.

Opportunities are also being explored to de-bond the multilayer waste stream so it can be fed back through the BOSS-2D process again, to separate the de-bonded polymer types ready for recycling.

BOSS 2D sorted plasticBOSS 2D sorted plastic film

Bringing BOSS-2D to market

Impact Recycling has already received interest from major plastic film manufacturers, producers and recyclers looking to incorporate recycled content into their operations.

Opportunities are being explored to build a 25,000 tonne capacity commercial demonstrator plant that will separate mono-layer polyolefin films to be recycled back into high-grade consumer products, potentially increasing UK capacity by 500%. Licensing opportunities are also being identified so the technology can be utilised by other reprocessors.

In this way the relatively simple solution can help to revolutionise plastic film recycling.



“The Ecosurety Exploration Fund enabled us to successfully take the BOSS-2D technology from lab scale to pilot plant, providing the means for an application to Innovate UK for grant funding to build a full scale 25,000 tonne commercial demonstrator plant. All of this has been achieved in less than 12 months; it simply would not have happened without the support of Ecosurety.” David Walsh Photo David Walsh CEO, Impact Recycling

About Impact Recycling

Impact Recycling, established in 2014, has previously developed a breakthrough plastic recycling technology called BOSS-3D which separates post-consumer mixed rigid plastic waste to recover two consistent streams of post-consumer resin (PCR), polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), each with a 98% purity. Their technology is designed to be financially profitable, technically feasible, and good for investors, the environment and the community at large.
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Enabling tomorrow's solutions

The BOSS-2D project has been funded by the Ecosurety Exploration Fund which is investing £1million in projects that aim to reduce the environmental impact of packaging, batteries or WEEE through innovation or research in the UK. The fund is the first such opportunity to be launched by a UK compliance scheme. It builds on Ecosurety’s experience in supporting innovative projects and new technologies across the waste and recycling sector.
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