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TC Transcontinental Packaging unveils new innovations in plastic recycling

By Trina La Susa

Photo courtesy of TC Transcontinental Packaging

BEFORE AND AFTER — TC Transcontinental Packaging’s recycling facility takes plastic films and converts them info film-grade, recycled resins that can be re-integrated into packaging. Within TC’s recycling operations, the company is free to choose where it procures its plastic waste because it’s now an integrated part of the business.
 Photo courtesy of TC Transcontinental Packaging
RECYCLED RESINS — Pictured above are post-industrial recycled resins from TC Transcontinental
Packaging’s recycling facility.

MONTRÉAL — To ensure the stable procurement of post-consumer recycled (PCR) and post-industrial recycled (PIR) resins, and to keep up with its 2025 sustainability objectives, TC Transcontinental Packaging in February 2020 created a new Recycling Group. Looking to the future, the company aims to vertically integrate plastic recycling in its packaging production chain in Canada, the United States and Latin America to ultimately ensure a high-quality and stable supply of recycled resin, according to Thomas Morin, president, TC Transcontinental Packaging.

Morin, along with Alex Hayden, TC Transcontinental Packaging senior vice president of research and development, innovation and sustainability, and Viktoria Andonova, Recycling Group procurement and sales manager, presented on the company’s recycling activities that provide its customers with eco-responsible packaging during a Pack Expo Connects live demo on the “Circular Switch” Nov. 11.

“Despite flexible packaging in most cases being the more environmentally preferred vehicle to preserve food and deliver it safely to consumers, we’re still faced with the opportunity to address end-of–life packaging challenges,” Hayden says. “Creating an economically and technically viable alternative pathway is of critical importance, and one that TC is tackling head on. We’re really not just satisfied to leave the fate of that critical opportunity in the hands of others, so we decided to make a big investment in the first TC recycling center based in Montreal.”

According to Andonova, TC’s Recycling Group recycles post-industrial low-density polyethylene (LDPE), linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) films, as well as post-commercial or post-consumer LDPE films, and converts them into high-quality, film-grade resins that are used in packaging operations. LDPE, LLDPE and HDPE films generated from the manufacturing process are post-industrial materials that can be made into high-quality resins and re-integrated into packaging, while in contrast PCR materials are collected from recycling facilities, agriculture or commercial sources, then washed and converted into recycled resin, she says.

The main challenge is the quality and consistency of the material supply; in general, the quality, consistency and volume can vary from place to place, making it sometimes hard to anticipate what will be received and how to manage contaminants, according to Andonova. Developing partnerships is key in achieving and maintaining stable procurement that produces high-quality resin, she says, and this allows the company to innovate and create better packaging and solutions centered on sustainability.

Hayden adds that within TC’s recycling operations, the company is free to choose where it procures its plastic waste because it’s now an integrated part of the business.

“There’s a close collaboration between Viktoria and our research and development team that allows us to target more specific types of waste,” Hayden says. “We regularly have discussions around the needs of our customers and how that relates to the sourcing of our material. Currently, we’re primarily sourcing from single sources, which drives a more predictable, quality consistency and performance.”

Hayden says another advantage of investing in a recycling facility is the possibility to create a closed loop system to make sure less product enters the landfill for customers and retailers, whether it’s an in-house waste system, back-of-store waste systems at retailers or an end-store consumer drop-off program.

“We now have the option to take that waste and recycle it back into the very same packaging materials that they source today from 100% petroleum-derived plastics, so that’s really getting closer to our dream of a truly circular plastics economy,” Hayden says, noting TC Transcontinental has a goal to incorporate more than 50% recycled content in all of its flexible packaging.

Hayden says the acquisition of Enviroplast Inc., a company dedicated to the recycling of flexible plastics in the province of Québec, is the first of many investments to help TC establish a successful business model and sourcing strategy to explore single sources from local businesses, retailers and other materials recovery facilities.

“We’re currently engaged on all fronts and learning a ton about all of the supply chain options we have, but also educating the producers of the waste in terms of their options for recycling,” he says. “We also will implement new technologies into this site, which will include state-of-the-art sortation, washing, deodorizing, filtration technologies. Our goal here is to have the purest PE with the required density, melt flow and other characteristics that are critical for our customers’ applications.”

While TC Transcontinental has not yet produced a PCR packaging that is FDA approved and food grade, Hayden notes the company is investing to produce and provide recycled content that’s safe for direct food contact applications and meets regulatory requirements.

Most recently, TC Transcontinental Packaging, a part of Transcontinental Inc., launched Integritite heat-shrink film made from 30% post-consumer recycled plastic, developed in collaboration with AHA Sparkling Water, a brand of The Coca-Cola Co., for the printed heat-shrink wrap of AHA Sparkling Water cases. Hayden says this film is recyclable where returnable, without altering the properties of the packaging and its durability.

“We successfully qualified PCR into horizontal, vertical form, fill, seal applications in both food and home/personal care end uses. Going forward, we really hope to address the economics of PCR content, and that’s a big hurdle for many of our brand owners,” Hayden says. “As we scale that part of our business and further vertically integrate the supply chain, there’s some big opportunities for us to optimize cost and drive a higher adaptation of PCR.”

For more information, visit https://www.tc.tc/packaging.

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