Market standard inks for plastic packaging
In phase 1 of the project, PP film and packaging samples containing > 50 % of PP recyclate could successfully be produced. The base material was printed biaxially oriented PP (BOPP) films on nitrocellulose (NC) based ink formulations. Nevertheless, the recyclate quality was not completely satisfying regarding material properties like colour, smell and processabilit
PU based ink system makes the difference
Based on these first promising results from phase 1, PrintCYC members strived for further improvement by testing alternative ink formulations for printing on BOPP and Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) films. Switching to a polyurethane (PU) based ink system in flexoprinting in phase 2 resulted in significant improvements of the mechanical recycling process on a production line which is typically used for reprocessing printed film waste materials in practice. Due to high temperature resistance of the inks (Temperature > 240°C), neither volatile by-products, nor odour or gels were observed, leading to a new class of premium quality recyclates, showing colour stable properties. A first environmental impact assessment showed decreased greenhouse gas emissions due to lower energy consumption of mechanical recycling of LDPE films compared to virgin material production.
High quality recyclates comparable to virgin material
The new premium recyclates showed excellent processability for the production of blown films, cast films and even biaxially oriented films which was 100 % comparable to virgin material. Up to 100% recyclate in the inner layer of an three layered ABA film structure could be implemented successfully.
Feasibility demonstration for different packaging formats
The EU Plastics Strategy strives to increase the amount of recyclates in plastic products and packaging. Within the PrintCYC project, the impact of recyclate reuse in different packaging formats was also evaluated. In phase 2 of PrintCYC, packaging formats such as flow packs, trays, yoghurt cups and tubes have been produced, proving usage of rPP and rPE recyclates in processes such as sealing, thermoforming and compression moulding.
Currently, PrintCYC members are presenting the results to further value chain stakeholders for an exchange of expertise and eventually to win new project partners. Another objective is to use the results for further development of Design for Recycling Guidelines. Next steps on PrintCYC’s sustainability journey towards a circular economy will be defined in the next weeks.
PrintCYC was founded in March 2019. The initiative was launched by a group of companies within the value chain of printed films. The acronym PrintCYC stands for printed polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) films for mechanical recycling.