Together for a circular economy: Recycling compatible inks

Together for a circular economy: Recycling compatible inks

Packaging fulfils a variety of functions, such as protecting its contents, conveying information, ensuring hygiene, or extending the shelf life of food. Nonetheless, it is seen as controversial as it produces waste – especially when it comes to plastic packaging. We want to change that, and we can: If the partners of the packaging industry work together, we can ensure that packaging fulfills its functions and, subsequently, gets a new lease of life.

Status quo: high ambitions, little resources

According to the new draft of the European Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), all packaging should be recyclable in an economically viable way by 2030. At the same time, contact-sensitive packaging (e.g. food packaging) should also contain at least 10% recyclate from consumer waste. While the industry seems willing to achieve these goals, there is one major problem: There is currently not enough high-quality recyclate to meet these ambitions. So, what can we do?

Our starting point: the impact of printing inks

Printing inks have a significant influence on the recyclability of packaging. In particular, the binder used in the printing inks is decisive for the quality of the recyclate of a mechanical recycling process. Currently, more than 80% of the inks used for packaging films are nitrocellulose-based. Unfortunately, the limited temperature resistance of nitrocellulose (NC) leads to degradation processes in the mechanical recycling process that reduce the recyclate quality in terms of colour, odour and further processability.

Our approach: evaluating the possibilities of deinking

One promising solution to produce high-quality recyclates despite the use of NC-based inks is the deinking process – i.e. washing off the inks before the recycling process. In recent years, the ink industry has developed a wide variety of solutions and tested them on a laboratory or pilot scale. Our initiative aims at investigating the most promising use cases from these tests in the scope of an industrial upscaling for the recycling printed polyolefin films. We will determine the extent to which the inks can be removed via deinking and what effect this has on the producibility, eco-footprint and product quality of the new polyolefin films. Thereby, we will consider packaging films with directly accessible surface printing as well as with encapsulated, difficult-to-access interlayer printing.

Who we are

This initiative is driven by the leading recyclers PreZero, InnoPlastics/InnoRecycling and Interzero, the film manufacturers Südpack and Taghleef as well as the printing ink manufacturers hubergroup Print Solutions and Siegwerk. We are further supported by the sustainability agencies Pacoon, Sphera and Realcycle as well as the testing laboratory Sqts and will be closely cooperating with sustainability and packaging specialists. The project and sustainability management is coordinated by Dr Annett Kaeding-Koppers (akk innovation).

Reach Out

Interested in learning more about our initiative?

Contact Dr Annett Kaeding-Koppers:

T +49 8642 5965 290

M +49 172 957 3925

Business People Talking at Each Other Inside a Room