BOULDER, COLO. — Following Impact Unleashed, Pet Sustainability Coalition’s (PSC) annual conference held virtually Dec. 3 and 4, the organization announced it will expand its Flex Forward program through NOVA Chemicals Corp, a leading polyethylene resin supplier.

NOVA Chemicals joins the expanded program, now known as “Toward Circularity,” as a technical sponsor. It will provide funding and expertise to PSC to help the organization identify circular solutions for flexible plastic pet food and treat packages.

“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 PSC. “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.”

Toward Circularity has two main objectives: to decrease the current landfill rate of plastic pet food and treat packaging (which is currently 99%) by finding uses for recycled packaging, and providing packaging end-of-life solutions accessible to consumers, retailers and packaging manufacturers.

The next step for this program will increase testing efforts of collected materials to find additional ways to created recycled products from used packages. The program will also collect and test scrap packaging resulting from misprints, manufacturing errors and other circumstances.

NOVA Chemicals will conduct this testing at its state-of-the-art Centre for Performance Applications in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Test results are expected to help PSC better understand how it can repurpose recycled pet food packaging materials across different applications and performance attributes.

“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,” said Monika Kleczek, circular economy market manager at 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.”

The initial Flex Forward pilot program was first launched in August 2020 after having been delayed due to COVID-19 complications. So far, the program has collected more than 10,000 used pet food bags across 120 participating retail locations in Oregon and Washington.

Read more about sustainability in the pet food and treat supply chain.