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Sustainability & Recyclability

Although sustainability can be defined in many ways, it usually includes minimal use of labor, energy and non-renewable resources during manufacturing and recycling.

“In-mold labels are not removed in the recycling process since they are bonded with the wall of the package. They will flow though the recycling process…and be blended with the recycled [resin]. The lack of adhesive is beneficial to recycling since it cannot affect color or other mechanical properties.”

 

– Association of Recycling Professionals (APR)

In-mold labeling (IML) and in-mold decorating (IMD) are considered more recyclable and sustainable than other labeling methods that occur after the molding process. Why?

The label or decoration is made of the same material type as the product or container, which simplifies sorting during the recycling process and allows the entire object to be ground into recyclate.

No adhesives are used to secure the label to the product or container. Recycling facilities have indicated adhesives can “gum up” the screens in the recycling equipment when the paper label is removed from the plastic container.

IML and IMD are efficient processes, reducing the labor needed with the use of automation and robotics to place the label in the molding process and remove the product or container after the molding process is complete. This allows optimal utilization of employee labor in other areas of the facility.

Design Guidance from the Association of Plastics Recyclers (APR)

According to the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR): 

“APR’s Design Guide helps package designers measure each aspect of a package design against industry accepted criteria to ensure that it is truly recycling compatible.”

Polypropylene (PP)

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

“In-mold labels are not removed in the recycling process since they are bonded with the wall of the package. They will flow though the recycling process with the PP and be blended with the recycled PP. The lack of adhesive is beneficial to recycling since it cannot affect color or other mechanical properties. The label polymer and ink should be compatible with PP so as not to negatively affect its properties.”

Read the full guidance at the APR site, linked below.

“In-mold labels are not removed in the recycling process since they are bonded with the wall of the package. They will flow though the recycling process with the HDPE and be blended with the recycled HDPE. The lack of adhesive is beneficial to recycling since it cannot affect color or other mechanical properties. The label polymer and ink should be compatible with HDPE so as not to negatively affect its properties.”

Read the full guidance at the APR site, linked below.

In-Mold Recycling Initiatives in the News

Digital Watermark Test Underway to Improve Recycling Clarity

In-Mold Labels One of APR's Preferred Labels or Inks

AIM, the European Brands Association, and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste announced a partnership to drive the next stage of development for intelligent waste sorting under the Digital Watermarks Initiative HolyGrail 2.0. They will work with the City of Copenhagen to conduct the semi-industrial test phase of the pilot. With this milestone, developers move one step closer to precision identification and sorting of plastic packaging waste through digital watermarks, with the potential to revolutionize the sorting and recycling process of plastic packaging.

Over the next four months, a prototype sorting detection unit will be installed at the Amager Resource Centre (ARC) in Copenhagen, where the trials and demonstrations with around 125,000 pieces of packaging representing up to 260 different stock-keeping units (SKUs) will be held. Engineers will test for several parameters including the speed and accuracy of the system, to ensure its ability to withstand the pressures of full-scale industrial operations. If successful, digitally watermarked products could be introduced to store shelves in Denmark, France and Germany by the first half of 2022 for in-market demonstrations and industrial-scale trials.

Read the full press release here: https://endplasticwaste.org/en/news/next-phase-of-testing-digital-watermarks-for-intelligent-sorting-of-packaging-waste

In-mold labels are one of three label/ink methodologies designated as a “preferred” technology by the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR). According to APR’s website:

 

In-mold labels of a compatible polymer

In-mold labels are not removed in the recycling process since they are bonded with the wall of the package. They will flow though the recycling process with the PP and be blended with the recycled PP. The lack of adhesive is beneficial to recycling since it cannot affect color or other mechanical properties. The label polymer and ink should be compatible with PP so as not to negatively affect its properties.

 

APR reminds those selecting design characteristics that, “Label selection should be considered carefully to find the solution most compatible with the recycling process that also provides the necessary performance characteristics. At a minimum, labels must be designed so NIR sorting machinery can identify the bottle polymer with the label attached, and labels should use adhesives that release from the bottle. Removing adhesives is a significant component to the cost of recycling so the packages using the lowest quantity of appropriate adhesive are the most compatible.”

For more information, visit https://plasticsrecycling.org/pp-design-guidance/pp-labels-inks-adhesives?highlight=WyJpbi1tb2xkIl0=.