Hydropol, a water-soluble, biodegradable polymer technology based on polyvinyl alcohol that can be extrusion coated or adhesive laminated as a film onto paper, which has been developed by Aquapak

Aquapak Polymers has won 4evergreen’s award for addressing recycling challenges, part of its Circular Success Stories, which celebrates breakthrough projects and can serve as inspiring examples of fibre-based packaging circularity and sustainability. 

Specifically, Hydropol, a water-soluble, biodegradable polymer technology based on polyvinyl alcohol that can be extrusion coated or adhesive laminated as a film onto paper, which has been developed by Aquapak, has been recognised for its ability to address crucial recycling challenges.

4evergreen is a European alliance of over 100 manufacturers, designers, brand owners, researchers and recyclers who represent the entire supply chain and want to contribute to a climate neutral society by perfecting the circularity and sustainability of fibre-based packaging. Its goal is to reach a 90% recycling rate for fibre-based packaging by 2030.

Developed and manufactured in the UK, Hydropol is soluble, non-toxic to marine life. Products made with Hydropol are safe for existing recycling processes and are fully biodegradable, leaving no trace or harmful plastic pollution should they enter the environment.

As an enabling technology, Hydropol can be used on its own or in combination with other materials to enhance recyclability, compostability and end-of-life options. Its material properties allow for scalability into diverse types of products and its solubility makes it easy to separate from other materials when recycling. For example, it can be extrusion coated onto paper or board giving strength and barrier properties against oxygen, oil and grease then made into a multitude of different applications.

4evergreen has undertaken an independent scientific assessment of Hydropol technology using its Recyclability Evaluation Protocol – the European gold standard for assessing paper recyclability.  It shows that not only does Hydropol provide barrier properties and functionality to paper, but it aids the recycling of paper with 100% recovery of fibres.

This was also evidenced by a study jointly commissioned by DS Smith and Aquapak.   This independent research, published in PITA, ‘’Considerations for process, product and environmental fate testing of soluble bio-digestible barriers for paper and board packaging’, shows that new barrier technologies such as Hydropol provide an alternative to conventional plastic coatings used in paper packaging by promoting improved paper fibre separation and removing plastic waste from the recycling process, dramatically reducing the negative impact of paper packaging on the environment. 

Mark Lapping, chief executive officer of Aquapak, said: “This is a crucial endorsement for Hydropol technology from 4evergreen which is leading the industry when it to comes to making paper products for the future.

“Hydropol provides packaging convertors and brands with a resource efficient, functional fibre-based packaging for household, out of home and on the go. It allows product design to support the circular economy by enabling recycling and delivering multiple end-of-life options. It is designed to be an alternative to traditional plastics, offering their versatility and functionality, and enabling recycling in standard paper recycling mills.”

Nick Thompson, Materials Development director at DS Smith said: “Changing shopping habits and expectations around sustainability demand that we and our customers continue to adapt to a changing world and to do that, we are focusing hard on Innovation and R&D and investing £100m into the business – into projects where we think can make the biggest difference, at scale, and sustainably.

“Our Fibre and Paper Development Laboratory is such an exciting example of this, and of the work we’re able to do with customers like Aquapak. It is a state-of-the-art research and innovation facility, from which we explore leading-edge technologies and materials in order to create new, circular-ready, packaging solutions. Through collaboration with Aquapak, we have tested and confirmed that their Hydropol technology can be included in circular recycling loops, and even assist in the fibre recycling process. We are delighted that 4evergreen has recognised this innovation and are so excited to continue our work with customers like Aquapak to bring innovative solutions to fibre-based recyclable packaging.”

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