Today, only around 10% of plastic waste globally gets recycled, while the rest ends up in landfills, in incinerations, and leakage to nature or the ocean. In fact, one of the most visible issues in packaging today is plastic pollution in the ocean. And the 10 largest sources of ocean contamination with plastics exist in Southeast Asia, where massive rivers carry plastic waste to the ocean.
|Watch a brief video on the UPM Raflatac chemically recycled PCR labels that use recovered and redirected ocean-bound plastics (OBP).|
The problem is that the world needs ways to reuse existing, post-consumer plastics. Packaging World spoke with Bob Taylor of UPM Raflatac at PACK EXPO International about the issue, and what his company is doing to address it.
“We're trying to create pull-through [markets] for the plastic that's been recovered, either from the ocean or before it enters the ocean, to be used as a raw material for plastic packaging and labeling go forward,” he said at the show.
In Southeast Asia, efforts are being made to recover ocean-bound post-consumer plastics before they even get to the ocean, where they could perhaps degrade. But in a wrinkle, both suppliers and brands playing in this new supply chain need to be cautious about regional issues like use of child labor. To ensure a clean, ESG-friendly supply chain, UPM Raflatac is sourcing certified Ocean-Bound Plastic (OBP)*. To do so, the company is working with several certifying NGOs to arrive at its Ocean Action line of p-s labels.
Collected ocean-bound plastics are first sorted, so anything that can be recycled mechanically in traditional recycling formats, will be. But the worst-of-the-worst is then redirected to a chemical (also called advanced) recycling process, where the degraded polymers are reduced to monomers, then built back up into higher quality polymers, in this case polypropylene (PP).
“And then we're using that material to make the film which is creating the base for these two new products,” Taylor says, noting that his company acts as the converter in the supply chain, who supplies labels to printers who supply brands.
The two new label products UPM Raflatac launched, called its Ocean Action products, are its Ocean Bound PP C-PCR White, and its Ocean Bound PP C-PCR Clear. White contains 85% ISCC (International Sustainability & Carbon Certification) PLUS Certified chemically recycled PCR material using a mass balance approach. Clear contains 90% of those C-PCR certified materials.
Since the two PP labels are monomaterial themselves, as long as they’re on a PP package, their end of lie should consist of recycling yet again, in exactly the same way as any other monomaterial plastic.
“Mono-materials is the way that packaging designers are pushing, so as long as [these C-PCR labels are] on the right package, they should be able to be fully recycled again,” Taylor concludes, referencing the truly circular model that brands and their suppliers aspire to.
According to the company, “Ocean Action is a perfect fit for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), such as household products, personal care, packaged foods, and beverages.”
“Our goals are to help companies reduce their packaging footprint, reach their sustainability goals, and create added brand value among environmentally aware consumers,” stated Ashley Drew, Sustainability Manager, UPM Raflatac, Americas.
* According to ZERO PLASTIC OCEANS, Ocean Bound Plastic (OBP) is plastic waste defined as “at risk of ending of in the ocean.” OBP is estimated to generate 80% of plastic marine litter. OBP is an “Abandoned Plastic Waste” located within 50 km from shore where waste management is nonexistent or inefficient.