Making Pouches Recyclable - with Technology
As consumers continue to become more aware and more interested in eco-friendly flexible packaging, there is value in understanding what your business can do to make your packaging recyclable. While many containers are recyclable, too many stand-up pouches - despite their compelling source reduction and greenhouse gas emission advantages - simply cannot be recycled in today’s recycling systems. We have developed new technology to enable high performance pouch films that CAN be recycled with other polyethylene films, without the compromises of most PE pouch films today. With recycling-compatible pouches, brand owners can always take pride in their business's packaging and know they are doing the right thing for the environment.
Make your Pouch Recyclable
The standard stand-up pouches used by many big brands for product packaging have a world of advantages. Unfortunately, recyclability has typically not been one of them. Many companies are now trying all-polyethylene pouches in an attempt to enhance recyclability, but performance of these pouches is often worse than that of non-recyclable pouches. At Polyplastics and TOPAS Advanced Polymers, our goal is to help fix this problem with our ethylene copolymer technology.
A limp PE-only pouch film will deliver poor printing, converting, filling, and stand up performance. No manufacturer or brand wants to handle such films, and the consumer will be unimpressed. Plastic pouches incorporating TOPAS® COC, which is a food contact compliant, high clarity ethylene copolymer that is 2-3x stiffer than even HDPE, will deliver strength and dimensional stability to the pouch, enabling performance to meet the desired standards of your converters and customers.
Seal the Deal
Another reason PE-only (polyethylene) pouches aren't ideal is poor pouch sealability, leading to low line speeds. High-temperature grades of TOPAS COC ethylene copolymer can add heat resistance to the non-sealant side of a pouch film, enabling higher seal bar temperatures and faster pouch sealing. Meanwhile, lower temperature COC grades can be incorporated into the sealant layer to add stiffness to the sustainable packaging without compromising its seals. These grades can even shorten seal initiation time to help accelerate line speed.
Easy Tear, Easy on the Eyes
Want an easy-opening pouch? TOPAS COC ethylene copolymer delivers. You control the tear performance with recipe and processing conditions, reducing or eliminating the need for other processing steps such as perforation. And the high gloss and transparency of TOPAS COC add the shelf appeal consumers have been conditioned to expect. TOPAS COC can be printed and metalized, typically more efficiently than standard polyethylene.
Because COC is an ethylene copolymer, it processes well in combination with PE (polyethylene). The Association of Plastics Recyclers has issued Critical Guidance Recognition to COC/PE combinations for films and even rigid containers. In Europe, COC has earned certification as a recyclable material with PE and PP.
We can recommend coextrusions and lamination structures that will deliver better line speed and better overall performance while maintaining recyclability within the PE film family. Contact us today to learn more!
Additional reference info: Multilayer LLDPE Packaging Performance Improved with TOPAS COC.
The Recycling Process
The recycling process varies by nation and locality. The paragraphs below are based on common US and EU practices, but no description can possibly be considered universal.
In places where films are accepted in residential recycling collection, the process begins when consumers place an empty pouch in the recycling bin. Once these plastic film-based products are collected, they are then sorted and melted down so they can be reused in new products. Many plastic products can be recycled and turned into park benches and tables, plastic packaging beads, storage bins, and even kayaks and canoes! Better still, plastic bags and pouches are increasingly recycled and turned into new grocery store plastic shopping bags to ‘close the loop’ and reduce need for new materials.
In most of the United States, traditional recycling facilities are not designed to recycle plastic films, so films and pouches are banned from the home recycling container. Instead, consumers are encouraged to drop recyclable films and pouches in the film recycling bins located at the entry to thousands of grocery and other retail stores throughout the USA. With this store drop process, these film-based items are then bundled with the massive quantities of stretch wrap film and other films generated by the stores themselves, and delivered to recyclers who specialize in film recycling. Then the plastics are melted and turned into pellets suitable for making new containers, durable goods, and even new films!
A considerable downside to the current recycling process is that most consumers lack awareness of how to properly dispose of recyclable packaging waste and materials. Currently, in the US, only about a third of all recyclable materials are being disposed of in the proper manner. And though many products have instructions for recycling on their product or a store drop off label such as those designed by How2Recycle.info, too many people will not read these easy recycling instructions. As mentioned above, some items require store drop in order to be properly recycled, which should be a simple matter for consumers who shop. After all, the pouches and films likely came from a store in the first place. Brands, retailers, and film and polymer makers all have a stake in improving consumer awareness of how to properly recycle plastic pouches and films. Our company supports multiple organizations working on this issue.
People Also Ask:
Is Pouch Packaging Recyclable?
Yes and No. What makes a recyclable pouch is totally determined by the combination of plastics used to make the pouch, which may or may not meet the standards required to be recyclable. Many pouches today are formed from laminations of incompatible plastics (a common example is polyethylene + polyester layers) which in film or pouch form cannot be separated and recycled in today’s systems.
How Do I Make My Pouch Recyclable?
Our advice is to base your pouch on polyethylene and related materials - including TOPAS COC. Polyethylene (PE) is the world’s most widely used plastic, and is recyclable in some fashion in many nations. Our polymers in combination with PE enable multi-layer pouches that are 100% recyclable and still provide customers with the high product quality of a stand-up pouch that they are accustomed to.
Why Is Flexible Packaging Not Recyclable?
Many flexible packaging solutions are not recyclable due to the product not being based on PE (polyethylene) which in the USA is the only widely recyclable film plastic.
Is PE Film Recyclable?
Yes, actually PE (polyethylene) film is one of the only flexible plastic materials that is classified as recyclable at a properly designed recycling facility. Recycling standards for PE allow a certain level of other plastics that have been tested by recyclers and proven to be compatible with the PE recycling process, without compromising performance of films made using the recycled material.