Blog | 02/04/2019 22:00:00 | 3 min Read time

Close the recycling loop with sustainable innovations

Juha Virmavirta

Director, RafCycle Solutions, UPM Raflatac

As we move towards a circular economy, businesses need to find more ways to keep materials in circulation longer. When it comes to paper-based materials, we have already reached long life cycles, but now we need to get to the same point with plastics. 

While plastic is a very useful raw material, we still must develop new sustainable ways to recycle it. With the aim to have completely recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2025, many brand owners are looking at closed-loop principles for handling plastic waste. And many organizations have also set a zero-landfill target.

Solving the liner issue

Like any manufacturing process, label production creates waste at different stages. There are waste streams to be handled in our own factories and also at the printers’ and brand owners’ manufacturing sites. For brand owners, one sizeable stream is the label liner. After labeling, the liner has done its duty, becoming waste… or a raw material if handled right!

Label liners today are either paper or PET plastic with a thin silicon coating. Disposing of liners brings both costs as well as an environmental issue: silicon is hard to get rid of, as it cannot be recycled with other paper material. Previously, liners were taken to landfills or burned, but these actions are now very costly or even banned.

Our solution is RafCycle™ by UPM Raflatac, which transforms liners from a waste product into a resource. Liners collected from RafCycle partners get a new life as magazine paper or liner material. The solution removes the silicon problem and brings environmental benefits and cost savings for the brand owners.

Sustainability has been the motivation for Henkel’s Beauty Care and Laundry business units to partner with UPM Raflatac for a number of years already, ultimately reducing its production units label liner waste to zero. In 2018, this prevented more than 40 truckloads of liner waste going to landfills or incinerators.

Sustainable waste stream management

As always in the recycling process, including with RafCycle, there are some challenges to be overcome inefficiently collecting materials. Small batches of used liner material are everywhere, as labeling occurs across locations in bigger and smaller amounts.

We have solved this with our RafMore by UPM Raflatac smart label solution, which is already in use in Denmark and Sweden. Each time a batch of liner material is taken to the warehouse, it is scanned. Our system then notifies us when the storage is nearly full, so we know when to collect the liner waste. To optimize pickup, the same truck can stop by other nearby label waste sites. Our real-time view of the situation means that brand owners do not need to call us for disposal, saving them both time and effort. Our aim is to make Rafcycle as easy as possible for our partners.

To close recycling loops and achieve a truly sustainable circular economy, we need even more innovations like RafCycle and RafMore.

How is your organization tackling recycling challenges?

Read more:

RafCycle™ by UPM Raflatac
UPM Raflatac expands RafCycle™ label liner recycling solution to North America



Juha Virmavirta

Juha Virmavirta

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