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Flexo Sustainable : Year-End 2012
Green Flash Recycling Acquires Rights to Groundbreaking New Technology Enzymes Help Limit Waste By Scot Foley Each year, more than three million tons of laminated pa- per products are produced in the United States. Of that total, less than 20 percent are successfully recycled. The rest end up in landfill or incineration facilities. Challenges associated with recycling laminated paper products are well known to the recycling industry: • Items contain a nasty mixture of paper, plastic, and oc- casionally aluminum—all of which are bonded to each other by strong adhesives • It’s difficult to separate valuable raw materials from each other through standard processes • Paper recyclers are forced to use extremely high heat, heavy mechanical processes, and even strong chemicals to separate the materials for recovery and reuse • All that mechanical and chemical intervention results in a very time-intensive process which produces a very low yield of recovered material The majority of recyclers simply refuse to accept laminated paper products, as they consider their processing inefficient and unprofitable. Thailand-based Flexoresearch Group has changed the equation for recycling laminated paper products. Paijit Sang- chai, CEO, Flexoresearch, has developed a new enzyme- based technology that breaks the bond between the different layers of materials by neutralizing the adhesives that connect them. This veteran of the paper mill industry, found the solu- tion in the form of naturally occurring organisms, which can efficiently do the work that man-made machines and chemi- cals simply cannot. This new process, developed after year’s of research in Sang- chai’s laboratory, allows for fast, efficient separation of laminated paper components with a very high yield of recovered materials. The valuable raw materials recovered from the laminated paper, such as paper pulp, clear plastic, and aluminum, can then be easily sold to manufacturers who will use those materials to generate new consumer and industrial products. The enzyme formula essentially breaks the bond between paper and other materials, such as polyethylene, polypropyl- ene, wax, and silicone. This enables the complete separation of the materials, so that the individual raw material components may be recovered. The enzyme formulas are also able to neu- tralize dozens of different types of adhesives, many of which are used in paper or cardboard manufacturing processes. This enzyme technology saves these materials from being sent to landfill or incineration due to their challenging composition. According to Green Flash recycling, there are many advan- tages associated with this process. • 100 percent separation of the components in laminated paper, flexible packaging, and cardboard • Recovery 20-30 percent more paper and 35 percent more plastic • Lower energy costs--enzymes operate in temperatures from 64 degrees Fahrenheit • Processing time is considerably reduced The process involves an enzyme bath, which serves to neutralize the adhesive layers that bond the different materi- als together. After the enzyme bath, the materials are then processed through specially designed pulping equipment, specifically engineered to effectively separate and recover all the raw materials in a particular product. In the case of laminated paper, such as label back liner, paper and plastic can be easily separated at an 80 percent to 90 percent yield of recovered material. Upon learning about this new technology breakthrough, the owners of California-based Green Flash Recycling traveled to Thailand to see the process in action. After visiting two of the plants that are using the technology, the firm acquired the rights to the U.S . market. Based on the quantity of laminated paper waste in the U.S. market, Green Flash foresees opening between 15 and 20 large-scale facilities throughout the country within the next 10 years. Annually, each large U.S . facility will have the capacity to successfully divert over 27,000 tons of laminated paper products from landfills. Cumulatively that will eliminate between 405,000 tons and 540,000 tons of landfill. n 4 Sustainable FLEXO yEar End 2012 www.flexomag.com
Earth Day 2013