Many Food Packaging Bottle are made of "thermoplastics". As the name implies, thermoplastics become soft or formable (plastics) at higher temperatures. Many types of food packaging, including beverage bottles, salad ingredient containers and many other food-grade packaging, are made of thermoplastics.
One of the processes used to mold plastics used in food packaging is thermoforming.
You can see an example of thermoformed plastic used for food packaging here. You might recognize this kind of packaging.
Another way to make plastic into food packaging (in this case, a beverage container) is blow molding.
Both methods are feasible for producing recycled plastics for food packaging.
Thermoplastics are different from other types of plastics. For example, "thermoset" plastics become solid when heated because they can be melted and reformed multiple times. This makes them relatively easy to recycle!
Conceptually, all thermoplastic materials can be recycled, including materials used for food packaging. However, the challenge for plastic recycling is that, depending on its intended use, recycled plastics can have significantly different commercial values.
When recycling thermoplastics, the intermediate step is to produce post-consumer resins (PCR) or plastic materials that can be reintroduced into the manufacturing process, such as the thermoforming and blow molding processes shown above. The collection, separation, cleaning and post-processing of post-consumer plastics are costly. If the value obtained by PCR is not high enough, recycling of plastics seems uneconomical.
Recycled plastics can be used for many purposes and end products. Compared with other products, some of the final products have relatively low commercial value. In the case of closed-loop recycling, the plastic will be recycled into the same packaging as the place of origin, thereby maintaining its economic value. In other cases, the product is recycled as another product that may not be of much value to the end user.
This means that the final quality of PCR is critical to making recycled plastics economically viable and therefore more widely used. Closing the circuit on the food packaging is the ideal ultimate goal, because there are many such circuits in production and the relative economic benefits are high.