Material Guide - Plastic

Plastic


 

Plastic is a material we use more and more in the world. It is a smooth, inexpensive and practical material that is used for a variety of goods - but it is mostly made of fossil oil, often contains toxins and is not broken down in nature.

Here we will tell you more about different types of plastic, recycling and how you can make a difference as a consumer and / or brand owner.

HDPE

 

Polyethylene is created by the polymerization of ethylene. The monomer does not meet the Swedsih Environmental Protection Agencies selection criteria for hazardous chemicals.

PE is a versatile plastic material, transparent to semi-transparent, and it can be processed both for soft and hard products. Depending on the density of the material, PE is divided into different groups; LDPE or HDPE. LDPE / PELD is low density PE and is used in, for example, plastic films. HDPE or PE-HD (high-density PE) is used, for example, in storage containers for food and chemicals. PE is the plastic that globally has the largest annual volumes.

Recycling Code 2 - High density polyethylene

LDPE

LDPE is low density polypropylene. (See HDPE.)

Recycling Code 4 - Low density polyethylene

PLA

PLA is a polyester made from lactic acid. Like many other thermoplastics, it can be formed into both film and fibres. PLA is used primarily for food packaging, plastic bags, disposable plastic glass and plastic film for agricultural purposes.

PLA plastics is a non-hazardous plastic that is also biodegradable. However, some studies have shown that products made of PLA release plastic chemicals when in contact with food.

PET

 

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is one of the most widely used plastics and is present in products such as jars and plastic bottles. The characteristics of PET is that it hardly weighs anything and that it is impact resistant. PET is also used in textiles and packaging. PET materials may contain dyes and colour pigments.

Recycling Code 1 - Polyethylene terephthalate

PP

Polypropylene is a thermoplastic used in products such as food containers, packaging, toys, furniture and textiles. Polypropylene is characterised by being durable, transparent and resistant to chemical stress. Polypropylene can sometimes contain dyes, antioxidants and, in some cases, flame retardants.

Recycling Code 5 - Polypropylene

PS

Polystyrene is a common and cheap thermoplastic of styrene that occurs in many different types of plastic products. The styrene monomer is suspected of being endocrine disruptive. Areas of use include covers for household appliances, food packaging, laboratory plastics, for example petri dishes, as well as building and construction materials. Polystyrene plastic is available in a quality called expandable polystyrene (EPS; informally known as styrofoam).

Recycling Code 6 - Polystyrene

HOW CAN YOU MAKE DIFFERENCE?


No one can do everything but everyone can do something. This also applies to packaging choices. When choosing packaging for a product, there is a decision hierarchy to keep in mind in order to make as good and sustainable decisions as possible.

The best thing from an environmental perspective is, of course, to minimise the use of plastics, i.e. to use as little material as possible in your products. If possible, try designing the packaging so that it can be reused, e.g. as a refill. Choose materials that can be recycled and clearly state on the packaging what the consumer should do to recycle the product.

Creating the perfect sustainable product is a challenge and the choices you have to make are many. How do you ensure that the packaging material's color, glue, label etc. are as environmentally friendly as possible? 

Click down below and download our guide to see how you make the best decisions for your particular product!

Help the consumer

SORT RIGHT

One simple thing to do to contribute to a better environment is to label your packaging with the recycling symbol and tell the consumer how the packaging should be sorted. For example, a HDPE bottle with PP lid: “Remove the cap from the bottle and recycle both as plastic packaging”.

How much is recycled?

In Sweden, FTI (Förpacknings- och Tidningsinsamlingen) is responsible for collecting recycled household waste.
The packaging can be sorted at recycling stations in different places in your municipality and in some municipalities there are property-related pick-ups. On FTI:s homepage you can see the addresses of the recycling stations.

In 2017, 44% of all collected plastic went to material recycling.

Increase recyclability -

USE THE SAME PLASTIC!

We cannot stand next to the consumer and help them recycle. What we can do, however, is influence them by smart design. The choice of materials, colours and additives extracts how sought-after the recycled material will be and whether it is possible to sort and recycle the plastic.

In order for the entire packaging to be recycled in a good way, and to avoid contamination, the entire packaging should be made of the same type of plastic. An HDPE bottle should therefore have a lid of HDPE etc.

THE GOLDEN RULES: USE THE SAME MATERIALS IN THE WHOLE PACKAGING

HDPE BOTTLE + HDPE LID + HDPE LABEL = EASIER TO RECYCLE

HDPE BOTTLE + PP LID + PAPER LABEL = HARDER TO RECYCLE

An easy way to make a big difference

Recycling


A piece of plastic packaging only disappears if burnt. Since the majority of all packaging is not burnt or recycled, there is today plastic waste in both the sea and nature. For example, a PET bottle takes 450-1 000 years to break down in nature and a plastic bag takes 50-100 years. Studies show that if we continue as we are doing today, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea in 2050.

Recycling is one of the keys to a future with circular economy. However, recycling also has its limitations. Plastic can only be recycled 2-3 times because plastic breaks down a little during each recycling cycle. After that it loses strength, stability and quality. 1 kg of recycled plastic reduces CO2 emissions by 2 kg compared to production of virgin plastic. One ton of plastic packaging corresponds to one ton of oil. One ton of hard plastic packaging can be recycled and used for the production of 84,000 flower pots. As shown earlier, there are many different types of plastics used in the packaging industry and in order to recover the material, these plastic types must be separated from each other. The recycling system can handle small amounts of mixed plastics, but large quantities can cause problems.

As consumers we can recycle but as brands, producers and developers we also have a responsibility to make it easier for consumers to recycle. We can do so by ensuring that the packaging we choose for our product is recyclable and by minimising size and packaging material.

In 2050, use of plastic in the EU is estimated to have increased from 49 to 62 million tons per year. 60% of the plastic in 2050 can be produced using recycled plastic.

A piece of plastic packaging only disappears if burnt. Since the majority of all packaging is not burnt or recycled, there is today plastic waste in both the sea and nature. For example, a PET bottle takes 450-1 000 years to break down in nature and a plastic bag takes 50-100 years. Studies show that if we continue as we are doing today, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea in 2050.

Recycling is one of the keys to a future with circular economy. However, recycling also has its limitations. Plastic can only be recycled 2-3 times because plastic breaks down a little during each recycling cycle. After that it loses strength, stability and quality. 1 kg of recycled plastic reduces CO2 emissions by 2 kg compared to production of virgin plastic. One ton of plastic packaging corresponds to one ton of oil. One ton of hard plastic packaging can be recycled and used for the production of 84,000 flower pots. As shown earlier, there are many different types of plastics used in the packaging industry and in order to recover the material, these plastic types must be separated from each other. The recycling system can handle small amounts of mixed plastics, but large quantities can cause problems.

As consumers we can recycle but as brands, producers and developers we also have a responsibility to make it easier for consumers to recycle. We can do so by ensuring that the packaging we choose for our product is recyclable and by minimising size and packaging material.

In 2050, use of plastic in the EU is estimated to have increased from 49 to 62 million tons per year. 60% of the plastic in 2050 can be produced using recycled plastic.

Recycled plastic turns into new products


Recycling packaging is one of the most important things we can do for the environment, but what happens after you have sorted and disposed your plastic at a recycling station? And what are the alternatives when it comes to packaging of recycled plastic?

Plastic packaging represents the largest portion of virgin plastic that we use today. Only in the past year, more packaging choices and packaging suppliers that work with recycled plastic packaging has emerged. The packaging offered ranges from material where a proportion is made of recycled raw material to packaging made of 100% recycled plastic. There is also plastic marketed as Ocean waste plastics, i.e. plastic collected from the sea, as well as social plastic, i.e. plastic collected by people in countries with high poverty who are paid for this work. The market for recycled plastic is continuously developing. Talk to us, your supplier or producer about the options available on the market that are best suited for your product.

1. Rough Seperation

The plastic is unloaded on a hard surface. Large and mis-sorted items are removed with a grab.

2. Fine Sorting

Smaller plastic objects are sorted using air, NIR (Near Infra Red) technology, density differences and manual sorting.
Soft plastic is r emoved from the hard plastic by air and the hard plastic is further sorted in NIR. The plastic is spread on a conveyor belt that passes an NIR detector. If the detector identifies the plastic as one of the selected plastics, the object is blown off from the belt. If the NIR detector cannot identify the plastic, the object remains on the conveyor belt.

3. Chrushing & Washing

The sorted plastic is crushed, washed and grounded. The washing takes place in the form of a density bath where polyolefins (PP and PE) that float are removed from other types of plastic (PVC, PET and PS) that sink.

4. Package & Delivery

The grounded plastic is packed and delivered to the customer/packaging manufacturer.