The Alpakka project aim to work for more and better recycling of food and beverage packaging in aluminium. All stakeholders in the value chain and a packaging user Kavli are partners in the project together with SINTEF and NTNU.
In Work Package 1 «Collection», literature studies have been carried out to identify «best practice» collection schemes for aluminium packaging globally. Here it was found that Norway differs from most other countries by having co-mingling of metal and glass. Norwegian municipalities have either glass & metal containers ("bring scheme") or waste containers at home ("collection scheme")
A program for pick analyzes in residual waste and in the metal collection has been carried out to establish a factual basis for what is the current situation for different types of aluminium packaging. Examples of questions that are answered are "How much goes into residual waste versus metal collection?" and "How much food residue is left in the aluminium packaging?". There is a large proportion of collected metal that is not packaging, ca 27%. Product residues amount to approx. 10% in the aluminium fraction. The proportion of collected metal increases with the collection scheme, but the collection scheme generally results in poorer quality than the bring scheme, ie more residual waste and metal that is not packaging. In 2021, a more focused picking analysis of the aluminium was carried out.
An innovative collection scheme concept "Meny piloten" has been developed to increase and improve the collection of metal packaging. Meny's customers are offered pick up of collection bags for used metal packaging. The pilot started in 2020 and in 2021 collected material was hand-sorted and analyzed. This provides insight into consumers' handling of the packaging and several of the bags contained both glass and metal.
The new sorting solution developed and implemented at Infinitum to recover aluminium that goes out with the label and cork material in 2020 has been improved.
In Work Package 2 «Design for Recycling», labeling of aluminium packaging has been one of the focus areas. Kavli's cheese tubes got new labeling in 2019. Another focus has been to gain a better understanding of what is the bottleneck with respect to increased recycling of aluminium packaging, in particular on remelting performance. Food residues and the amount of coating should therefore be the main focus further in the project. In 2020, a collaboration was established with the design community in SINTEF and the KPN project V-ALU-E as a bridge-builder between the designers' perspective and the metallurgical perspective. Here, 30 different aluminium packaging products are studied in detail. In 2021, effort has been performed on a more recyclable aluminium tube.
In Work Packages 3 and 4 «Recycling», in 2020 the aluminium fraction from collected glass&metal has also been tested at Hydro Holmestrand. The tests showed that there was too much organic material in this fraction, even after manual sorting of organic pollution. In 2021, this was tested in the laboratory in Trondheim. A test method has been (further) developed that quantifies the yield and quality of remelted aluminium packaging. Yield and quality can now be quantified for the various collection schemes. Hydro Holmestrand has installed new equipment and a new sensor.
Throughout 2020, Metallco carried out a comprehensive test program to recycle aluminium packaging. The results show that there are challenges with respect to high levels of some types of pollutants/elements.
Hydro Holmestrand has installed new equipment and a new sensor. Furthermore, samples from Hydro Holmestrand are being tested in the PhD project. In 2021, pre-treatment experiments before remelting, from a new and old sorting plant was conducted.
The PhD project started in 2019 and has among others resulted in an article for Light Metals 2022 entitled " Effect of compaction and thermal de-coating pre-treatments on the recyclability of coated and uncoated aluminium ".
Work package 5 "Sustainability Analysis & Communication" has carried out a study of the aluminum packaging flow in Norway together with aluminum quality. Furthermore, life cycle analysis has been carried out which compares the environmental impact of plastic-coated cardboard and steel cans for food packaging with aluminium. The study is based on Norwegian conditions and sheds light on the entire life cycle, including the material's recyclability.
Alpakka is a timely project that receives requests from a number of stakeholders such as industry organizations, municipalities, and other players in the value chain. Aluminium recycling is a topic in the subject "Experts in teams" at NTNU and "Action Recycling" aimed at children in school grades 5-7. This year, 418 classes with 7,322 students were enrolled. The classes compete on most collected metal packaging and on making something creative from the collected. See Action Recycling.
The main objective of the Alpakka project is to establish a Norwegian flagship demonstrator for Circular Economy in practice, which will increase the aluminium packaging circularity in Norway by value-chain cooperation between collectors, food producers/packaging designers and aluminium recyclers as well as through engaging the consumers. The project aims to prevent 40.000 tonnes of aluminium from going to waste incineration yearly, corresponding to >1,5 TWh energy savings and several hundred thousand tonnes of CO2 reduction. Partners Metallco Aluminium AS and Infinitum AS will focus on increasing the aluminium packaging collection intensity by benchmarking various existing collection and sorting schemes as well as assessing new innovative approaches. Partner O Kavli AS will together with the other partners and its packaging suppliers obtain a better understanding of the recyclability of the aluminium packaging used for its food products today and subsequently develop an improved design that enables 100% recyclability by 2025. Partners Norsk Hydro ASA and Metallco AS aim to improve its recycling operation through a new sensor-based system for automated furnace charge, which could reduce emissions and energy consumption, increase yield, and enable recycling of aluminium packaging into wrought alloys. Furthermore, Metallco aims to recycle mixed aluminium packaging to cast alloys at a high yield through establishing a new recycling operation. In collaboration with Infinitum AS, Norsk Hydro ASA aims to increase the Used Beverage Cans (UBC) recycling yield by improving the UBC compaction step. NTNU and SINTEF AS will support the above activities, including a PhD project. SINTEF will take a lead role in interlinking the value chain and developing a recommendation for how to best achieve aluminium packaging circularity. Alpakka will also contribute to increased consumer awareness, as well as new jobs in both collection, design and recycling plants in Norway.