A Dutch project to recycle agricultural big bag packaging could be adopted globally if successful.

The family-owned producer and distributor of flexible packaging solutions LC Packaging, based in Holland, is working with Veolia Netherlands, the domestic arm of the multinational Veolia waste management and recycling business.

As well as cardboard, jute bags, WPP bags and net bag packaging products for the agricultural industry, LC Packaging distributed over 11 million flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBCs) or big bags in 2018. Much of this total was produced in the company’s ISO-certified production facility in Bangladesh, with a second location opened in early 2019 to meet demand.
But last year saw the global recycling industry thrown into turmoil by China’s prohibition of most imported recycling materials from the end of 2017 – during 2018 China’s share of the global imported materials market fell from 60% to around 10%. Much of the displaced volume was absorbed by other south-east Asian countries, leading to pressure for similar prohibitions by Malaysia and Vietnam.

The upshot has been a surplus of used big bags, as there are now too few recycling facilities to process them all.

The situation has led LC Packaging and Veolia Netherlands to form a strategic partnership that aims to minimise the residual waste streams related to flexible packaging on a global scale. The objective is to optimise the recovery and upcycling of flexible packaging materials after use, instead of most of it ending up at incineration plants or landfill.

A pilot programme is already underway with a group of LC Packaging customers, and the company intends to roll this out to more customers, industries and supply chain partners through a closed loop approach. Veolia Netherlands contributes the reverse logistics – recycling recovered packaging and converting it into high quality compounds.

“Our goal is to minimise and recuperate the waste associated with our packaging,” states LC Packaging chief executive Lucas Lammers. “At our own production location, we already recycle up to 80% of our production waste and, with our WorldBag reconditioning service, we are able to recondition certain types of big bags up to six times.

“The recyclability of a packaging product depends on the materials used; the design of the packaging itself; the product that is packaged within it; and the available infrastructure and after use solutions at the location where it ends up. With our extensive network in the supply chain; long-term relationships with our production partners and customers; and our partnership with Veolia we see the opportunity to really make a difference.”