Dealing with plastic packaging contaminated with residual amounts of food

Ashlene Vennard, Paul Cairns, Svetlana Tretsiakova-McNally, Ian Harvey, John Harrison, Charlie Farrell

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

245 Downloads (Pure)


Large quantities of packaged food wastes are used as a feedstock for renewable energy production through
Anaerobic Digestion (AD). Although the packaging is separated from the food waste during processing, it remains heavily contaminated with the residues. For example, a local AD facility processes around 100,000 tonnes
of food waste annually with around 8,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste going directly to Refuse Derived
Fuel (RDF) or landfill. This reduces a recycling potential of packaging polymers, increases the quantity of solid
non-degradable waste and leads to an increase in methane emissions. There is potential to optimise this process
by cleaning the packaging, making it attractive to recycle with the additional benefit of capturing residual food
waste, which enhances renewable energy yield. The aim of the RE:Solve project, commenced in February 2022
and supported by Ecosurety, is to develop a novel process that effectively separates the waste plastic packaging
from food.
Preliminary results indicated that significant amount of water (40 L/kg packaging) would be required to clean
the packaging to a level acceptable for further reuse or recycling. Encouragingly, initial tests showed that food
residues could be removed via a mechanical process, thus eliminating the need for large volumes of water in a
cleaning process. This was achieved by processing the dried packaging in a cutting mill. Preliminary tests also
indicated that particle density separation methods could separate out the cleaned material into different types
of plastics.
Through this project, we endeavour not only to address the plastic pollution problem but also to recycle food
waste packaging via development of process prototype that will effectively separate the food and the plastic
wastes, with appropriate routes for reuse.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 20 Jun 2022
Event32nd Irish Environmental Researchers Colloquium - Ulster University, Belfast
Duration: 20 Jun 202222 Jun 2022
Conference number: 32


Conference32nd Irish Environmental Researchers Colloquium
Abbreviated titleEnviron 2022
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Dealing with plastic packaging contaminated with residual amounts of food'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this