New packaging that promises to make smart plastics scalable and affordable was discussed at the Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo (AWRE) this week.

Aquapak Polymers director Dr John Williams talked visitors through the latest in sustainable end-of-life options, including the global trial of a new functional packaging called Hydropol.

With the promise of making smart plastics scalable and ultimately affordable, the packaging was the topic of his talk on at the AWRE, held at the ICC in Darling Harbour, Sydney.

Williams says there have been many obstacles in replacing conventional plastics with something equally functional, affordable and sustainable.

Dr. John Williams 

“The hurdles can be daunting, but it’s imperative that we keep moving forward towards a circular plastics economy,” he says.

His solution, Hydropol, is a clear and flexible food-grade plastic that dissolves in hot water.

It is already in use in Australia’s hospital sector – its laundry bags keep nurses and auxiliary staff safe from infection.

Once dissolved, Hydropol biodegrades to a benign biomass, carbon dioxide and water, and can be safely flushed away with wastewater.

Its suitability for food packaging and for combining with other materials means Hydropol could help overcome many of the barriers to a circular plastics economy, Williams says.

The smart plastic is undergoing extensive trials with partners in Australia, Malaysia and in the UK, where a flagship factory was recently opened.

Hydropol has successfully passed trials as a standalone packaging film, and combined in extrusion coated paperboard.

Results from end-of-life tests are due soon, and are expected to demonstrate that Hydropol-coated paperboard remains repulpable – a significant step forward for a circular new plastics economy.

Designed as a highly functional packaging polymer with sustainable end-of-life options, Hydropol is compatible with standard plastics manufacturing equipment found throughout the global supply chain.

Marine safety and behaviour in the oceanic environment is also being researched by third parties to ensure sustainability claims are properly substantiated.

The versatility of Hydropol means it could offer a mono-material, sustainable alternative to a vast range of currently unrecyclable packaging options.

“We are aiming to introduce Hydropol as a smart plastic that enables society to ‘keep calm and carry on’, requiring minimal disruption to global food and medicine supply chains, and providing waste managers with a material they can actually work with,” Williams says.

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