Printing ink developer Siegwerk has joined forces with APK - a specialist in the production of plastic granulate from plastic waste - to improve the recyclability of plastic packaging as part of the circular economy.
In a statement Siegwerk - which produces inkjet inks among others – pointed out that almost 80m tons of plastic waste accumulate worldwide, and currently only about 10% of the resources used in the production of plastics are recovered through recycling.
“We face a huge challenge here, which we need to solve in a short time,” said Dr. Jorg-Peter Langhammer, head of global PSR and sustainability at Siegwerk. In Europe, the recycling rate for plastic packaging was 41.9% in 2017 and is expected to increase to 50% by 2025 according to an EU resolution. “Plastic recycling is such a complex topic, that, in fact, it cannot be solved by one industry player or one sector of industry alone,” added Klaus Wohnig, spokesman of the board of APK. “Yes, the current discussion, also in the public, is primarily focused on the challenges of how industry can establish a sustainable circular economy for plastics in the shortest time possible.”
Polyolefins, a collective term for the kinds of plastic that include polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), are the most commonly used raw materials in the packaging sector and, due to their versatility, are used for a number of different applications. In view of the fact that the recycling rate for products made out of polyolefins was below 40% in Europe in 2017, the gap in achieving the higher 50% recycling rate for plastic packaging by the year 2025 is becoming more apparent. “This means the industry must urgently address solutions for the recycling of polyolefins,” stressed Langhammer. "The main challenge is to manufacture recyclates to a sufficient level of quality allowing them to be reused for the production of high quality packaging." The majority of recyclates are not yet suitable for use in packaging and are thus removed from the packaging cycle.
“Printing inks in particular, but also pigments, and the organic residues from post-consumer waste, represent a challenge when it comes to manufacturing a reusable recyclate that is as versatile as possible”, explained Wohnig. With Newcycling, APK has developed a solvent process that dissolves and cleans the polymer, meaning that polymers can be separated selectively in mixed plastic waste. The result is sorted granulate that is like new.
“Printing inks are a particular challenge here, which we can only solve with an expert,” said Wohnig. “We are pleased to have found this expert in Siegwerk.” As a specialist in packaging printing inks, Siegwerk has strives to constantly improve the ecological footprint of its printing inks and varnishes while actively shaping the future of packaging with innovative and sustainable ink solutions.
Siegwerk is pursuing different approaches for de-inking print in various recycling processes in order to improve recycling quality. “To do so, we must understand the possibilities of recycling and be ready to take new approaches to increase recyclability. This makes the collaboration with APK extremely valuable to us,” added Langhammer.