Winner-blue-gold-graphic[4]Functional and economical rigid plastic packaging solutions are integral to the modern food supply chain and play an important role in protecting the safety and quality of the product from manufacturer to consumer. However, for all the benefits that packaging technology provides, there remains the unintended consequence in the form of waste as a result of the single-use nature of food packaging.

From Linear to Circular: Transforming Packaging Technology

Traditional packaging models are linear – meaning that materials are manufactured, used and then disposed of. But the industry is working hard to change this model and instead adopt a circular economy for plastics packaging where, instead of being disposed of in a landfill or incinerated, it is treated as a valuable resource that is recycled, reclaimed, and reprocessed for use in manufacturing new products or packaging in a circular fashion.

To achieve this, companies across the entire plastics value chain must work together to innovate packaging technology to make a circular economy for plastics possible.The EPA defines the circular economy as one that “reduces material use, redesigns materials, products, and services to be less resource intensive, and recaptures ‘waste’ as a resource to manufacture new materials and products.” With this in mind, there are numerous ways to improve the circularity of plastic packaging to align more closely with the principles of a circular economy:

  • circular-economy-infographicDesign and re-design packaging for optimal recyclability
  • Use of innovative packaging technology & materials that promote increased sustainability & recyclability
  • Employ material carbon footprint reduction strategies in packaging
  • Establish viable end markets for recycled plastic
  • Increase the use of PCR content in plastic packaging

To achieve this, the industry requires new, sustainable, and environmentally friendly packaging alternatives to help overcome these challenges.

To that end, ICPG is proud to announce that XPP Polypropylene Solutions has been selected as the Recyclability category winner for the 2024 US Plastics Pact Sustainable Packaging Innovation Awards! This year’s winners were chosen based on the improved environmental impact of the product, the likelihood of commercial viability, and the level of potential impact in moving the industry toward circularity, and we are honored to have earned this designation.

This material is a fully recyclable solution that was designed to replace polystyrene in rigid form fill seal packaging, a material that is widely used in FFS food packaging today but is not considered recyclable and furthermore, has been classified as a “problematic and unnecessary material” per the US Plastics Pact. This packaging technology helps overcome several circular economy challenges experienced with current PS solutions and offers innovative mechanical and processing attributes that are not possible with traditional polypropylene materials.

Simplified Design for Recyclability

One of the primary challenges with increasing the quality and quantity of recycled packaging is the use of non-recyclable materials and/or material combinations that have no ability to be recycled. Therefore, designing packaging with more recycle-friendly packaging technology and materials presents a tremendous opportunity to increase recycling rates and the quality of recycled materials for reprocessing. This is the concept of Upstream Innovation, which rethinks products at the design stage to include the development & use of new materials, designs or business models.

How XPP Delivers: Current PS packaging is not recyclable, nor is it expected to be recyclable at scale for packaging in the near future, thus contributing to the “not recyclable” designation per APR and How2Recycle. XPP is a simplified, pure polypropylene solution produced without the use of mineral fillers, additives, coatings, or specialty materials that could otherwise negatively impact the recyclability of the packaging and aligns with industry-accepted design for recyclability guidelines. As a result, this material can be recycled in the existing polypropylene recycling stream (RIC #5) depending on the overall packaging design, even with the use of EVOH and pigmented materials.

LCA & Material Reduction

When analyzing the environmental impact of packaging, it is important to consider all stages where potential impacts can occur. As such, many leading CPGs have made commitments to reduce carbon emissions along with packaging waste while implementing recyclability targets.

Industrial activities can impact the environment in many ways and at varying times over the course of a product's “life.” While some impacts occur immediately, others occur farther down the supply chain, making it difficult for companies to grasp the true environmental impact of their products. As such, LCAs can be particularly useful to gain a complete perspective.

A Life Cycle Assessment is defined as, “the systematic analysis of environmental impacts over the course of the entire life cycle of a product, material, process, or other measurable activity.” The various stages of the product life cycle typically include material extraction, production, packaging & distribution, use, and end-of-life phases including waste treatment or recovery. At each stage, natural resources including energy, materials & water, are used while wasted material, energy, and emissions are created.

How XPP Delivers: Innovative packaging technology and materials can contribute not only to improved recyclability but can lead to a reduction in carbon emissions and reduce material consumption. The low density and lightweight nature of polypropylene also allows for sustainability advantages vs incumbent PS & alternative PET solutions throughout the product life cycle.

XPP material solutions offer a 12% density reduction in comparison to PS and a 30% density reduction in comparison to PET alternatives. This density reduction results in a higher yield (more parts) during thermoforming processes, lighter-weight parts, less solid waste by weight and reduced material consumption in comparison to PS and PET:


Yield Factor

Consumption (lbs)











In addition, the light-weight nature of XPP vs PS and PET results in a further sustainability advantages as supported by Life-Cycle Assessment including:

  • Reduced fossil-fuel consumption
  • Reduced global warming potential (ton CO2 eq.)
  • Reduced transportation emissions
  • Reduced water consumption

*LCA available upon request

Preserves Processing, Form & Function

Maintaining packaging integrity is fundamental to preserving the quality and safety of the food product. Without this protective packaging, food would spoil or be damaged, which could result in significant environmental and economic impacts including increased food waste. Therefore it is important to develop packaging technology that preserves the ultimate purpose of the packaging while providing a more sustainable solution. In addition, in order for a replacement material to be viable from a business perspective, it must offer compatibility with equipment.

How XPP Delivers: In conjunction with the positive sustainability attributes, XPP was designed to effectively mimic the characteristics of PS to allow for processing on existing PS-FFS lines with minimal adjustments to settings & without the need for costly and extensive equipment upgrades. Ultimately, this is what sets our XPP innovation apart from traditional material solutions as a viable material replacement to PS in rigid form fill seal packaging applications not just in theory, but also in practice, offering improvements to key mechanical properties including:

  • Material shrink: Maintains similar shrink rates to PS
  • Increased stiffness: Offers increases stiffness vs traditional PP
  • Lower temperature requirements: Can be processed at lower forming temperatures than traditional PP
  • Trimming & cutting: Compatible with existing trimming and cutting stations on rigid FFS processing lines.
  • Barrier Performance: Offers barrier performance for a range of food products from refrigerated to shelf-stable without compromise to recyclability
  • Snap-able & scor-able: Increased rigidity & stiffness of XPP maintains the “snap-ability” and “scorability” of PS for form fill seal (FFS) multi-pack applications

Advancing Sustainable Packaging Technology

This is the product of many years of hard work and dedication from the ICPG team to develop a sustainable, viable, and economical replacement solution for Polystyrene in rigid form fill seal packaging applications. We are excited for the opportunity to work in partnership with industry leaders as we continue to move the broader industry one step closer to achieving its goals for the elimination of problematic and unnecessary materials and improved circularity in packaging with the help of our fully-recyclable material solution.

Learn about how you can use XPP to accelerate the circular economy potential of your packaging today!

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