Is All Flexible Packaging Recyclable?
Flexible packaging materials have a smaller carbon footprint than most rigid packaging, but not all of these materials can be recycled. It is important to consider the materials used in all the layers of a package. Find out more about the options available for designing digital printed stand up pouches or other packages out of recyclable, post-consumer recycled or compostable materials.
Mono-material packaging made of polyethylene is recyclable. PE has the benefits of being resistant to oxygen exposure and water vapor and can be printed with photo-quality graphics. This recyclable packaging material complies with Food and Drug Administration requirements for direct food contact. Producers seeking flexible packaging that can easily be recycled should consider PE.
At the end of the product life cycle, PE packaging is approved for store drop-off. Producers have a choice to use a #2 Resin ID code or ASTMD7611 for HDPE recycling streams alongside a generic store drop-off indication. If a producer enrolls in the How2Recycle program, flexible packaging can also be printed with the logo provided by this program. Depending on the condition of the packaging and the presence of food contamination, materials may either be processed into recycled resin or converted into energy through pyrolysis.
Post-Consumer Recyclable Packaging
Post-consumer recyclable packaging incorporates between 25% to 30% PCR content in each film layer. The composition of standard packaging might include a PET print web consisting of 30% PCR material, metPET barrier layer that is 30% PCR and an LLDPE sealant web with a minimum of 25% PCR material. This approach to using recycled materials in packaging can significantly reduce the resources necessary to produce packaging.
On average, recycling plastic materials uses 80% less energy than new production. Further recycling may be possible depending on the composition of packaging. The use of PCR material reduces resource expenditure and the footprint of packaging throughout the product life cycle.
Compostable and Sustainable Packaging
Some of the newest packaging materials are designed to break down into non-toxic particles that nourish soil. Compostable packaging can be a good choice for packaging coffee, tea or snack foods. Consumers appreciate when consumable products come in eco-friendly packages that will not add unnecessary volume to landfills or contribute toward lasting pollution. These materials are still being developed for widespread use.
No matter which type of packaging materials you are considering, it is important to factor in every stage of the product life cycle. In general, flexible packaging requires approximately 50% less energy to produce and has a better product to packaging ratio than rigid materials such as glass bottles with metal caps or aluminum cans. Any flexible packaging material is lighter and takes up less space during shipping and storage, which allows for a smaller carbon footprint.
A growing number of consumers factor in whether products have recyclable or sustainable packaging while making purchasing decisions. When designing frozen food packaging or packages for other products, food producers have the option to choose from recyclable films or other materials that can be manufactured, used and disposed of in more environmentally responsible ways.