Pet food packaging recycling pilot gets boost from NOVA

PSC announces that NOVA Chemicals will sponsor its pet food packaging recycling pilot.

The Pet Sustainability Coalition is pleased to announce that NOVA Chemicals Corp, a leading supplier of polyethylene resins, is the technical sponsor of “Toward Circularity” - an expansion of the Coalition’s current Flex Forward pet food packaging recycling pilot.

NOVA Chemicals is providing funding and expertise to expand the Coalition’s leading packaging work to address opportunities to advance the circular economy for flexible plastic pet food and treat packaging materials. 

A circular economy in packaging is where materials are recycled or recovered to be used over and over. To help address some of the biggest obstacles to achieving packaging sustainability, “Toward Circularity” will expand collection to include both post-consumer and post-industrial recycled (PCR and PIR) material, and conduct testing to determine best markets and applications for the recyclate.

“Toward Circularity” has two objectives:


  1. Decrease the current landfill rate (99%) of plastic pet food and treat bags by finding uses for recycled plastic pet food and treat bags. 
  2. Provide end-of-life solutions for consumers, retailers, and packaging manufacturers.

“An estimated 300 million pounds of plastic pet food and treats bags are produced in the United States alone each year,” said Melissa Bauer, Director of Sustainability at the Pet Sustainability Coalition. “Most of these bags are made of multiple types of plastic, making them difficult to recycle. Long term, we aim to help the pet food industry move to recyclable, monomaterial packaging, but it is imperative that we help increase recycling for the materials that are being produced today.”

In August 2020, the Pet Sustainability Coalition, in partnership with pet food brand Earth Animal and distributor Pet Food Experts, launched the Flex Forward pilot program to test a ‘return to retail’ pet food packaging collection system where the packaging is recycled for use in new products. More than 10,000 used pet food bags have been collected at 120 return-to-retail collection points in independent pet food retail locations in Oregon and Washington to date. As the current post-consumer packaging pilot comes to a close, the “Toward Circularity” expansion will increase testing of the collected materials from consumers to find ways to introduce the recycled pellets into new materials, while also collecting and testing scrap that occurs from misprints, manufacturing errors, and the like. 

NOVA Chemicals will conduct testing on the collected recyclate at its state-of-the-art applications development-focused Centre for Performance Applications in Calgary, AB Canada. Test results will help the Pet Sustainability Coalition better understand the use, applications and performance attributes and further refine their understanding of how to best repurpose the material. Ultimately, the learnings from the pilot are intended to inform and shape a pet industry wide closed-loop plastics recycling program whereby pet owners, retailers, brands, and packaging suppliers can collaborate to reduce the environmental footprint of packaging.

NOVA Chemicals is on the forefront of the movement to advance a circular economy for plastics. “We are actively working with our customers and throughout the value chain to help them design and develop products and packaging that utilize recyclable film structures and post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials,” says Monika Kleczek, circular economy market manager, NOVA Chemicals. “Only six percent of all plastics that are recycled today are flexible materials. The Flex Forward pilot is a great opportunity to tap more of the potential for flexible films to be recycled into new, valuable products.” 

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