Innovation insight – Albea

Stepping up to Tubular success

When it comes to questions about plastic tube recycling, the answers can vary over time. New manufacturing techniques and product innovation can create additional milestones, resulting in more regulations and increased legislation. Albea believes that a clearly defined and specific step-by-step methodology is crucial to achieving improved recycling results.

Gilles Swyngedauw, VP Sustainability & Innovation at Albea told SPN: “Europe is driving the way towards a more sustainable future with the Green Deal and its new Circular Economy Action Plan, which focuses on 6 key areas, among these are climate change, clean and circular economy and zero pollution. In a very short time, the EU and France voted and implemented new regulations on packaging waste. And there is more to come with the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive which will start shortly and will become the cornerstone of Sustainability in Packaging. 

The targets towards a circular economy are clearly defined: In 2025, 50% of plastic packaging should be recycled, in 2030 55%, and 100% of packaging will have to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2035. Still, to be claimed as recyclable, all packaging needs to be collected, sorted, regenerated, and used again as a material for a viable application, which implies a multistage process”.

At Albéa, we have defined an effective methodology based on 4 concise steps:

  • Step 1 defines the packaging to assess. A tube is made of the tube, a seal and a screw cap. To assess the product, the seal has to be removed and disposed. It is therefore not considered as a component of the packaging when assessing the recyclability of the tube. On the other hand, to assess the product, the cap will be unscrewed and screwed back on after each use. For the assessment, the formula should also be considered as some formulas can disqualify the recyclability of the tube.
  • Step 2 is about defining an existing recycling stream as well as the recycling family of material the tube belongs to. Where Extended Producer Responsibility is in place, the Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs) are managing the collection and sorting the packaging by families of materials. The material making up more than 50% of the tube weight defines the family – and the appropriate recycling stream. Once the family is defined, a local recycling stream needs to be found. Finally, it should be ensured that the packaging entering the stream is not going to interfere with this one.
  • Step 3 is about the sorting of the tube packaging and its recognition in a “materials recovery facility” (MRF). For example, black carbon or full metallised layer in surface will hinder the sortability. 
  • Step 4 starts when moving from the MRF to the Regenerator plant. The compatibility of the various components with the recycling stream of its main materials family is evaluated to guarantee that nothing hinders the recyclability: Alu foil or some additives such as fibres are not compatible and can downgrade the regeneration. Some components may not impact the overall recyclability but may reduce the amount of recycled material available like PET Caps in HDPE streams.

Recycling-ready tubes and caps

Greenleaf 2 laminate tubes
Recognised by both the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) in the US and RecyClass in Europe, Greenleaf is a patented, simplified web production process that generates a 100% recyclable Plastic Tube range with high barrier properties.

First extruded plastic tube and cap is recycling-ready in Europe
Recognised by RecyClass, the tube is a mono-material, downgauged web with white masterbatch that leverages the unique ThinwallTM technology and is assembled with an HDPE shoulder. Both tube ranges can be regenerated into HDPE bottles and integrate the HDPE bottles recycling stream.

First cap in PE launched in February 2020

The SLIM Cap (flip-top) in PE is one of the lightest caps on the market, an eco-designed model combining weight reduction with recyclability.

Guidelines on recyclable tubes:

  • As mono-material as possible
  • Tube body in HDPE
  • Cap and tube body in same material
  • Barrier layer as thin as possible
  • Optimized decoration