Plastic packaging has helped improve the quality of life for people around the world, allowing communities access to hygienically-preserved and safely-sealed products that can be efficiently transported. The unique characteristics of plastic packaging enables access to fresh food, clean water and products like shampoo, detergent, and even coffee.
They allow people to afford products that may have otherwise been out of reach financially or regionally.
Most plastic food packaging is made of multiple types of polymer films layered together – designed to increase packaging strength and hygiene. But such multilayer packaging can be difficult to recycle with existing mechanical recycling technologies.
One of the ways to solve this challenge is to replace the multiple layers with a single type of polymer, such as polyethylene (PE), which can retain the positive performance characteristics of multilayer plastics and can be mechanically sorted and recycled*.
In Indonesia, we have worked with PT Indoceria Plastik and Printing and food manufacturer Panamei Seafood, to develop one of the first full-PE mono-material food packaging solutions in the country. Packages are made from a single plastic material and provide safely sealed, locally sourced seafood across the country.
This development means the plastic pouches can be recycled in communities that have programs and facilities for recycling plastic film, without sacrificing packaging integrity or food safety, providing a locally-developed solution for Indonesians.
“This is in line with our company’s vision to grow together with our stakeholders and achieve our sustainability ambitions through the development of new packaging solutions,” Eddy Soelayman, director PT Indoceria Plastik and Printing, said.
ExxonMobil Indonesia marketing director for chemical products, Evan Lukas, said collaboration is important in developing local solutions.
“ExxonMobil in joint collaboration with the value chain is working to help address the needs of the packaging market with the development of all-polyethylene recyclable* packaging solutions,” he said.
We are also working with local manufacturers in India to develop similar plastic packaging.
We have collaborated with Indian packaging maker Shrinath Rotopack and packaging-machine manufacturer Syntegon to develop recyclable packaging for dry foods which can replace multilayer plastics.*
This packaging can be recycled and reused in a variety of different ways, such as mixing it with asphalt to pave roads or with other raw materials to make new plastics.
“ExxonMobil’s leading efforts in developing packaging solutions have set an industry benchmark,” explained Syntegon India managing director Nilesh Vedak.
“So, we are working with ExxonMobil to address the evolving flexible-packaging needs by providing solutions aligned with changes in Indian regulations.”
Nitin Thakur, marketing manager for ExxonMobil’s chemicals business in India, added, “These solutions can benefit the entire flexible-packaging value chain to meet ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ guidelines aimed at advancing the circular economy.”
In addition, in China, ExxonMobil is working with local companies to help develop and produce high performance plastic films for the agricultural sector.
“One trial project with a film convertor has resulted in improved materials for mulch films that are more durable and less likely to tear or disintegrate and are also less impacted by extreme heat or bad weather which can degrade other mulch films,” said Royce Chen, ExxonMobil’s North Asia Polyethylene market development manager.
“The customer has already commercialized the product and successfully collected mulch film from pilot farms.”
The retrieved film is then re-pelletized into resin for use in other applications such as trash liners and secondary packaging, thus achieving a complete cycle from manufacturing, recycling to reutilization.
In addition to developing new packaging that can be recycled*, we are also deploying advanced recycling processes to transform previously difficult-to-recycle plastics into new products.
At our Baytown complex in the U.S., as of June 2022 we have successfully processed more than 5,000 tonnes of plastic waste and have made initial sales of certified circular polymers to customers for use in packaging and other applications.
We have plans to scale up operations, building approximately 500,000 tons of annual advanced recycling capacity by year-end 2026, with new advanced recycling facilities under assessment at multiple sites around the world, including in Singapore.
Plastics have helped create the modern world, and now they are evolving to help provide the same safe packaging with sustainability benefits that can aid in building a better future.
*Recyclable in communities with programs and facilities in place that collect and recycle plastic film.