$3 Million Awardee

COtooCLEAN Process: Recycling Polyolefin Films Back to Food Grade

Nextek Ltd


United Kingdom

Currently the recycling of films is greatly held back by the absence of a technology that can decontaminate post-consumer polyolefin (LDPE, LLDPE, HDPE, PP) films back into food-grade material.

Existing processes use a mixture of aqueous or organic solvent washing, drying and thermal desorption. These processes are unable to reach food-grade compliance yet are still energy intensive and have a high environmental impact.

The vision of COTooCLEAN is to fill the gap and achieve circularity for food-grade films by converting post-consumer film waste to the highest value recyclate that can be used in new films with recycled content for food contact applications. This will create high value end-markets for polyolefin films and ensure that recycling targets can be met.

The COTooCLEAN project aims to deliver a revolutionary commercial process that can efficiently and effectively clean and decontaminate post-consumer polyolefin films to a food-grade status by using a unique Supercritical Carbon Dioxide (ScCO2) cleaning process. ScCO2 is a non-toxic, non-flammable and non-corrosive solvent that can selectively remove contaminants through use of co-solvents.  

In a single step, the process allows for the simultaneous removal of oils, inks, adhesives, labels and chemical contamination from post-consumer polyolefin films, using an environment-friendly process that can easily recycle the non-toxic solvent and separate the residues.  

The COTooCLEAN process offers an impactful solution for the high levels of flexible film waste growing around the world. By creating circularity within food-grade films, the process will reduce demand for virgin resin and improve recycling rates of flexible films. In addition, by creating a new recycling stream (i.e. recyclate for food-grade film), COTooCLEAN will also divert film waste from landfill and lower value products.  

The relatively simple modification to the existing mechanical recycling process makes the potential impact of COTooCLEAN even greater because of its scalability to global adoption over time.

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