Toyo Ink and Itochu to partner in building plastic recycling scheme for multilayer packaging

Recycling pilot plant to open next year in Japan.


Toyo Ink SC Holdings, the parent company of the specialty chemicals manufacturing conglomerate Toyo Ink Group, and Itochu Corporation, a global trading house, have entered into an agreement to establish a plastic recycling scheme for the recovery and reuse of multilayer film packaging materials. Specifically, by using their respective technologies and business networks, the two firms will develop the materials technology needed to create circularity of multilayer flexible packaging by making currently unrecyclable multilayer plastic packaging into a recyclable material by 2022.

The collective goal is to improve the plastic material recycling rate to more than 40% in Japan and abroad. According to Toyo Ink, the current recycling rate in Japan is about 27%.

Moreover, the waste problem of single-use plastics has been attracting global attention. In Japan, while about 16% of plastic waste is simply burned, buried, or otherwise processed without being reused, about 56% relies on incineration methods, such as the thermal recycling and heat reclaiming.

To address the plastic waste issue, in 2019, Toyo Ink, in collaboration with an environmental solutions provider, developed an innovative plastic recovery technology for multilayered flexible packaging, where a deinking coating agent and a delaminating adhesive are applied to the plastic film surrounding the ink layers. After use, the packaging waste is subjected to an alkaline treatment in which the coating agent, adhesive and interlaying ink layers are cleanly released from the film substrate. This, according to Toyo Ink, results in the recovery of “high-quality” plastic material that can be reused to create products of new value.

A pilot plant based on this plastic recovery process is currently being built in Japan, and is set to become operational later this year.

Under the agreement, Itochu will promote environmental solutions to food and daily necessities manufacturers, retailers and brand owners, by encouraging the development of packaging structures that use of this recycling technology, and by promoting eco-packaging design. In addition, Itochu will acquire marketing rights in Japan and negotiation rights in Asia and Europe related to major product materials related to this recycling technology.

Shiina Harako, product manager, marketing division at Toyo Ink, concluded: “Itochu brings to the table a whole host of major players in the global packaging value chain, who share our vision of creating a recycling-oriented society. Through this partnership, we hope to carve a clear path to realising a circular economy for post-industrial plastic waste in Japan and elsewhere.

“This initiative is also a major step in Toyo Ink’s strategic plan to start a post-industrial recycling business in 2022, and a post-consumer recycling business in commercial plants by 2025.”