A significant proportion of foil packaging, such as foil packaging of pallets or the multipacks of beverage containers, is printed. However, such printing causes a decrease in the value of the film when recycled because of the mix of colours.
Banning printing is difficult because many producers use the packaging for marketing purposes. Attempts have also been made to de-ink plastic packaging, starting from existing inks and printing processes, but this technology proved very expensive in practice and also often disrupts the recycling process.
Initially, Valipac wanted to create a completely new printing technology within this project together with an ink producer, a packaging manufacturer, a packer, a recycler and a waste collector that would make de-inking feasible. However, that path was not economically viable, and in the meantime it turned out that existing de-inking techniques were getting better and more cost-effective.
Therefore, we gave the project a different twist and started investigating how much printing (percentage of surface area) is acceptable in order to be able to use the produced recyclate for similar film packaging, and from when that is no longer the case. We intend to use this information later, among other things, when drawing up design-for-recycling guidelines.
Partners Morssinkhof-Rymoplast bv, Oerlemans Packaging bv, Suez, TOYO Ink ARETS, Wienerberger, Fost Plus vzw, Aldoplastic Gmbh
We did not achieve the initial goal of the demonstration project. We could not develop an ink system that can be removed in any standard recycling process. We did learn that there are inks that pose fewer problems (smoke generation, thermal decomposition ...). However, those are expensive and not widespread in the industry. The industry should try to further scale up production of those inks so that they drop to an acceptable price level.
However, the project was successful as we found several alternative solutions to the problem.
The big challenge remains the large-scale roll-out of plants that can de-ink plastic films. Meanwhile, the recycling industry is starting to see the potential of de-inking and investments are being made that allow it to produce decoloured recyclate.
Another challenge remains the variety of ink systems. A number of inks are known to be difficult to dispose of. In an ideal world, the use of those inks would eventually phase out.