Recycled Content & Recycling

Recycled Content & Recycling

Can I use recycled content in my plastic film?

The answer will largely be dependent on what you are packing. If you are using the film for direct food contact then the answer is highly unlikely to be yes or it will probably be uneconomically feasible to do so for some time. If you are packing non-food products or the packaging is not coming into direct contact with food or drink then the answer is likely to be yes. There are other factors that may affect the viability such as performance required of the film.

What are the possible issues with using recycled material?

Plastic produced using any amount of recycled plastic content carries certain risks and challenges. Most of all there will be a variability in the consistency and quality including some potential taint and/or discolouration to the film.

Availability may well be less reliable when compared to virgin equivalents and this will change as demand increases and additional capacity from recyclers comes on stream. It is worth noting that at the beginning of 2020 the economic viability of recycling was looking very fragile due to the relative low price of virgin materials at the time.

Can the films or bags we buy from Roberts Mart be recycled?

Nearly all types of plastics can be recycled. However, the extent to which they are recycled depends upon technical, economic and logistic factors. Plastics are a finite and valuable resource, so the best outcome after their initial use is typically to be recycled into a new product.

The On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) provides information to consumers about whether a plastic product can be recycled. Retailers and brand owners are encouraged to use this help communicate with the public on what can and cannot be recycled.

Recycling is currently devolved to local authorities in the UK. Nearly all councils collect plastics for recycling, generally through a kerbside collection system. This ‘post-consumer’ plastics packaging waste is then provided to waste management and recycling companies. Councils choose what to collect for recycling and often base their decision on the cost at which they can sell the collected material and what specific materials nearby recycling facilities can process.

Collection of ‘post-consumer’ film is still developing, however, and currently few councils collect it.

What is the difference between chemical and mechanical recycling?

Mechanical recycling is the process by which plastic waste is usually shredded and any impurities like paper labels are in some cases eliminated. Not all recyclers have the ability to wash and clean material so the quality does vary greatly. This material is melted and often extruded into the form of pellets which are then used to manufacture other products. Chemical recycling on the other hand is the broad term used to describe a range of emerging technologies in the waste management industry which allow plastics to be recycled, that are difficult or uneconomic to recycle mechanically. By turning plastic waste back into base chemicals and chemical feedstocks, chemical recycling processes have the potential to dramatically improve recycling rates and divert plastic waste from landfill or incineration. Currently there is very little chemical recycling capacity in Europe.

More information can be found here:

Can Roberts Mart collect and reprocess our waste?

Generally speaking, yes however currently we can only reprocess unprinted polythene. Any printed film or hard plastic (OPP or PET) would be sent onto a third party for reprocessing.

What is Closed Loop Recycling?

Closed loop recycling is the process by which waste is collected, recycled and produced to make something new. Effectively, the waste does a full circle without having a negative impact on the environment.

What about the carbon footprint of plastic?

Plastic generally has low weight and volume, which make it so useful and resource-efficient. When it comes to transport, plastic has a much lower carbon footprint than paper and cardboard due to its smaller volume and weight. Using recycled plastic will clearly reduce the carbon footprint of any packaging materials.  There is also the opportunity to use bio-based materials (link to “Carbon Free Films” on  Innovations page needed here) which can be carbon neutral or positive depending on the level of content.