Polyethylene Product Sustainability

Resins and structure designs that support a plastics circular economy

Plastics have transformed modern life. They’ve brought us everything from life-saving medical devices and safety equipment to non-corrosive water pipes and insulating containers. Plastics are lightweight, durable, and cost-effective, making them an ideal material for a wide variety of products and industries. These benefits have enabled broad adoption of plastic materials and with it, challenges in managing plastic waste.

As global citizens, we must work together to keep plastics out of the natural environment and move to a circular economy where plastics are recovered and “regenerated” at the end of each product life. Simply put, plastic products have great value and must be designed for easier recycling and recovery.

That’s what we’re doing in the polyethylene business. Our resins and structure designs help enable plastics circularity at the design phase, where the lifecycle path is established.

Helping our customers meet their product sustainability objectives

Reducing Food Waste (and other goods)

Thirty percent – about 1.3 billion tonnes per year – of global food production is never eaten[1]. In addition to wasting natural resources, we’re throwing away food in a world where 11 percent of the population is undernourished[2]. Performance plastic packaging extends the shelf life of many foods, keeps our food from spoiling, and reduces food waste.

  • We have a portfolio of performance resins that help enable outstanding seal and abuse resistance to reduce package failure and resulting food spoilage.
  • Our film structure design expertise allows us to help our customers develop packaging with the properties each food product requires to maximize shelf life.

Material & Energy Use Reduction

Source reduction is the first goal of a circular economy. We have several tools, resins and film structure designs that help our customers create packaging that meets performance requirements with less material and less energy in the converting process.

Modeling and Simulation Tools

  • Our BONFIRE® Film Development Platform enables us and our customers to evaluate film structures or rigid products and containers
  • Customized caps simulation software allows for virtual exploration of the influence of resin parameters and process conditions on part performance and real world failure modes, reducing the number of physical trials and associated material usage.
  • We recently invested in the GaBi Packaging Calculator, lifecycle analysis software that allows us to comprehensively analyze the total environmental footprint and circularity of specific packaging options.

Resins and Structure Design

  • We have the expertise to help customers and brand owners convert from rigid plastics and other materials to flexible plastic packaging, reducing material usage substantially, up to 97% in the case of glass.
  • E-commerce packaging expertise to help brands meet Amazon’s “ships-in-own-container” (SIOC) initiative that aims to eliminate excess shipping packaging.

Product Recyclability

Product recyclability is a basic requirement for mechanical recycling to play a role in the circular economy. Industry associations have set packaging recyclability and recycling goals, while many brand owners and retailers have goals for 100% recyclable packaging as soon as 2025. For several years, we’ve been helping our customers and their customers meet these goals by moving from multi-polymer or alternative material packaging to PE-based, recyclable solutions:

  • Recyclable, barrier flexible film structure designs. We work with our customers to tailor structure “recipes” to the specific needs of each packaging format, performance requirements and film and packaging line conditions.
  • Polypropylene to polyethylene conversion for CSD and hotfill caps and closures, and PE pouch fitments with properties that enable hermetic seals to recyclable PE pouches.

Incorporation of Recyclate

End markets for recyclate (post-consumer recycled content/PCR) are an essential component of circularity. Brands are committing to targets for recyclate inclusion in their packaging to help close the loop. We can help. Our scientists, engineers, and technicians are developing solutions that allow the incorporation of recyclate into film structures or rigid products that are traditionally made with 100% virgin resin:

  • We have several virgin resin offerings formulated to compensate for higher percentages of recyclate when used as a virgin material in combination with recyclate, and to withstand multiple cycles of mechanical recycling with less loss of performance properties.
  • We’re working with customers to develop film structure designs for food packaging and other performance film applications that incorporate recyclate and have comparable performance to 100% virgin resin films.

[1] http://datatopics.worldbank.org/what-a-waste/global_food_loss_and_waste.html

[2] https://www.foodaidfoundation.org/world-hunger-statistics.html