When is a pack "made of plastics"?
Here plastic is often combined with other materials, such as aluminium. From a recycler’s point of view, we refer to packaging as plastic if there is a minimum of 15 per cent by weight of plastic content and, most importantly, if it can also be identified as plastic packaging by state-of-the-art commercial sorting technology. This entails the package having a surface area of more than 60 per cent made of plastic. Where the package has an aluminium coating/layer, this must not be thicker than 5 μm otherwise due to the sorting technology, the package will end up in the recycling stream for aluminium.
We are aware that recyclability is not the number one priority when designing a plastic package. The top priorities will be functions such as protection and conservation of the product, especially if this relates to fresh food. And there will always be packaging which is not suitable for recycling. At the very least we want it to be possible to easily sort and remove this type of packaging using state-of-the-art sorting technology. These packages could then be sent for incineration.and the energy “parked” in the packaging can be used.
What is important for packaging recyclability is how much residual content is left inside the package. Preferably, there should be none at all because residues make recycling problematic and expensive; not to mention the unnecessary waste of these residue products. Therefore “easy-to-empty” or “easy-to-access” considerations are important criteria in the design of recyclable packaging.
In addition, there exist a range of factors governing the recyclability of packaging. For example choice of material, of colour and of adhesive or additives. Packaging made from one material can be perfect for recycling, some using combined materials can be suitable too, others are not.
Guidelines already exist for different types of packaging; these give information on what is recyclable and what is not.
Assess, improve and endorse the recyclability of your packaging
In January 2018, the European Commission released European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy where it urged the plastics industry and its value chain to encourage and ensure a shift in production of plastic packaging. The plastics industry’s business as usual is at crossroads, as recyclability is becoming a priority aspect in packaging design. This has triggered several brands to announce pledges to work towards increased recyclability of packaging. More
Recycling starts in the product design phase. The key to more sustainable plastics is better design of plastics and plastics products.