New recycling guidelines that aim to help retailers and brands specify and design packaging that can be reprocessed effectively in paper mills have been launched by the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI), in conjunction with WRAP.
These guidelines have been developed after broad consultation with the packaging supply chain and are intended to give clarity for retailers and specifiers about what the UK Paper Industry considers readily recyclable.
The CPI says they should lead to the optimisation of both the quality and quantity of materials being recycled at paper mills and crucially help create impetus for future technological development in paper packaging materials.
The guidelines will also be considered by the On Pack Labelling Scheme (OPRL) when they amend their labels later this year. Their members typically have a two year transition period, allowing sufficient time for technical developments to be implemented in order to be classed as Widely Recycled under the scheme.
Simon Weston – “Our new Recyclability Guidelines will make it easier for designers and specifiers to identify materials that provide properties such as water resistance and can be processed by UK paper mills while minimising waste.”
Paper recycling in the UK is a success story, with around 80% of paper and board packaging recovered for recycling, notes Simon Weston, Director of Raw Materials at CPI.
“Paper is widely acknowledged to be a sustainable, renewable and readily recyclable material; however, as society develops new uses are found which may require the addition of other materials, perhaps to extend product life, and this can sometimes make recycling a challenge,” he said.
“Our new Recyclability Guidelines will make it easier for designers and specifiers to identify materials that provide properties such as water resistance and can be processed by UK paper mills while minimising waste. We hope they will provide confidence and direction to the supply chain and benefit the stock of fibre-based packaging being recovered for recycling.”
Helen Bird, Strategic Engagement Manager at WRAP, said: “Improving the quality of paper and card that goes into our paper mills is good news for the environment and for the industry. These guidelines have been developed as a result of industry coming together to identify and address the challenges.
“Most brands and retailers want to do the right thing and this guidance will assist them to do that. We always have to remember that recycling is about manufacture, ensuring that fibre-based packaging that can be easily recycled is really important, particularly for a material that householders are so accustomed to recycling.”
The guidance covers plastics, coatings, varnishes, adhesives, alternative barriers, gift wrap, biodegradable paper packaging, other fibrous materials, fillers and binders, promotional magazines and graphical papers and contaminants, including food.
Key messages of the guidelines:
- Designers should minimise plastic content
- A tear-off facility should be provided for plastic facings where possible, with consumers encouraged to use them
- Two sided laminates such as beverage cartons and hard to recycle coffee cups can be recycled and should be collected and reprocessed separately
- Restrict metallised films and laminates
- Choose adhesives that are soluble in water and optimise the quantities of glues and adhesives used in manufacturing
- Waxed or waxed coated papers and siliconised papers should be minimised.
And on food contamination:
- Surface staining of packaging is acceptable, but food waste sitting in the pack or food attached to the surface is regarded as unacceptable
- Encourage consumers to rinse before recycling
- Provide tear-off solutions or peelable surfaces to allow the consumer to dispose of a contaminated surface in general waste and put the clean paper substrate in the recycling bin.
Wolfgang Schwarz, Technology and Manufacturing Manager at DS Smith’s Paper division, commented on the guidance.
“At DS Smith, we see the opportunity for packaging to play a powerful role in the world around us,” he said. “We help our customers respond to changing shopping habits with sustainable packaging solutions that our society needs.
“Achieving high recyclability while maximising functionality is not easy but, when you consider the environmental impact of poorly designed packaging products, the value of doing so is clear. Being involved in developing these guidelines was an important exercise to not only guide the quality of recyclable materials arriving at paper mills, but also support the wider packaging industry to embrace best practice design for recycling.”