Upcycling printed plastic sheets to make new printable plastic sheets

Circular-Print – a waste-free industry solution for printing companies.

Two interdisciplinary 5-year research projects have been carried out by the Renner printing company (Neumarkt/Wallersee, Austria www.renner-print.at), recycling firm Walter Kunststoffe GmbH (Gunskirchen, Austria, www.walter-kunststoffe.com) and the consulting company M2 Consulting GmbH (Hartkirchen, Austria, www.m2consulting.at), the results of which are now being implemented with great success. For the first time, it is now possible to sustainably prevent heavily printed plastic sheet from becoming waste by using it again as raw material in an upcycling process without needing to use 100 % virgin material for the production of new, printable sheet material. The COREMA technology made by recycling machine manufacturer EREMA (Ansfelden, Austria, www.erema.com) that used in the upcycling process enables recycling and compounding in a single step. Implementing this project brings the companies involved fully in line with the EU’s 2030 targets. Thanks to its importance as a recycling solution for the printing industry it was nominated for the Energy Globe Award in the category “Sustainability” in 2020, which it went on to win in December.

100% circular economy is the most valuable form of recycling technically and ecologically and no longer requires a yellow bag as an intermediate collection stage. This solution was developed for plant labels (see film at https://www.renner-print.at/100-upcycling) and has since been extended to applications throughout the large-format printing sector. Even election posters are now produced with this system and do not need to be disposed of after the election, but can be 100% recycled again.

Bernhard Baumberger, Managing Director of Walter Kunststoffe GmbH, is also proud of this success: “Circular-Print is now the world’s first recycling solution for heavily printed PP sheets. Together, the project partners have succeeded in returning 100 percent of the recycled PP to the manufacturing process of the original product without any loss of quality. This represents a major contribution to the circular economy for plastics.”

New certification label for plastic sheets made from recyclates

In order to distinguish printable plastic sheet products with post-industrial recycling qualities or post-consumer recycling qualities, a new certification label has been created with the help of the Johannes Kepler University Linz. A digitisation project (www.circular-print.eu) took place in parallel to set up an online system that records all the stages and processing steps – from the printed plastic sheet to the recycled pellets and the new products – using data input by all the partners involved. This makes uniform certification much easier and saves time and costs.

Circular-Print is now the top recycling solution across the printing industry and saves up to 80% of CO2 compared to conventional solutions. This circular economy solution makes it clear that there is simply no material alternative to plastic that is even remotely comparable in ecological terms. In the meantime, the processing method for polypropylene sheets has also been adapted so it can be implemented in other polymer systems (PS, PVC, etc.). More than 50 partners from the printing, recycling, logistics and sheet manufacturing industries have already registered and now work with this solution. In 2020, despite the Corona crisis, several hundred tonnes of printed plastic sheet went through this upcycling process. The partners are located in six different European countries.

Our Circular-Print industry solution will continue to grow strongly in the coming months and contribute significantly to the sustainability of our recycling flagship continent.

For more information go to www.circular-print.eu or https://www.renner-print.at/100-upcycling.

Written by Kevin Gambrill