Innovation Insight – Siegwerk

Defeating today’s down-cycling challenges

Accredited as the first technology of its kind by the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), Siegwerk has developed a unique washable ink-technology that defeats today’s on-going, down-cycling spiral. The new technology enables de-inking of UV/LED printed PET shrink sleeves, thus allowing for the post-recycling of sleeves, along with PET plastic bottles.

Today there is a greater awareness than ever of the need for recyclable packaging. This in turn has created the development of special materials in order to develop new packaging formulas. However, there are a number of key challenges that need to be overcome in order to make 100% circular packaging possible.

Different plastic types cannot be separated or mechanically recycled in order to yield a useful recyclate. Furthermore, avoiding multi-material structures is not always possible in respect of shelf-life and other technical aspects of the packaging. In addition, current recyclate quality is typically poor. This is due to the unpleasant visual appearance, as well as the odours that can be emitted from different types of recyclates following extrusion. These problems can also be related to ink-degrading and unwanted traces remaining in the recyclates. This process unfortunately stimulates and enforces down-cycling.

The importance of inks and coatings in designing packaging fit for recycling cannot be over-emphasised. Ink used on packaging can either hinder or help in facilitating true circularity and avoiding the down-cycling of packaging.

To address these problems the leading ink manufacturer, Siegwerk has developed de-inking and delamination technology that enables the creation of high-quality recyclates.

The de-inking and delamination primer are printable layers sensitive to an industrial hot washing progress. Inks and coatings are removed quickly and effectively, leaving clean, separated plastic layers. The remaining high quality recyclates can be used in new packaging materials. Plastic laminates do not always need to end up in the landfill or incinerator. This break-through technology from Siegwerk is compatible with a wide variety of packaging structures, whilst packaging specifications remain unchanged.

Most importantly, use of the de-inking and de-lamination technology aids in achieving 100% recyclability, which is an essential component in achieving a truly Circular Economy.

One example of the application of this technology is the use of de-inking primers for cPET sleeves in combination with certified ink systems. This allows for the removal of printed layers within defined de-inking process conditions. This new technology finally avoids the down-cycling of rPET in the textile industry.

Whilst this technology may significantly enhance circularity, collaboration and close cooperation within the corresponding value-chain is key to establish a commercially successful recycling process. Therefore, Siegwerk is seeking partnerships from those in the packaging value-chain who wish to take a leading role in pioneering circular solutions for the future.


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