By Cassandra Balentine
Part two of two
The status of the environment is of growing concern to consumers, brands, governments, and organizations worldwide. When it comes to printing processes, media options exist to ease these concerns. Products made out of post-consumer waste, renewable resources, and are compostable and recyclable offer an option for print providers and converters looking for sustainable solutions.
Defining Eco Friendly
As noted above, many media attributes may be considered eco-friendly. However, it is generally a broad term that might mean different things to different organizations and individuals.
For instance, Jay Kroll, product manager cut and craft films and wall and transit films, General Formulations, says non-PVC products come to mind when talking about eco-friendly media options for labels and flexible packaging.
Yair Gellis, VP marketing and business development, Polysack, defines sustainable substrates as 100 percent recyclable in PE recycling streams that currently exist in many countries.
“In terms of defining a media product as eco-friendly or sustainable, PPG looks at whether it reduces waste, is recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable,” says Fabrizio Mandingorra, PPG global segment manager, labels and graphics, TESLIN Products. He explains that although most synthetic papers are plastic-based, they can differ in the amount of plastic they contain. Teslin’s unique microporous construction results in less plastic than other competitive synthetic papers.
Ryan Chai, strategic solutions manager, Nobelus, says the term refers to any operational, developmental, or executive effort that improves the organization’s footprint.
He says Nobelus is particularly interested in being eco-conscious at its facilities, where they focus on continuous improvement in operations to reduce energy consumption through smarter technologies like LED fixtures and to practice responsible waste management protocols. “Furthermore, we are committed to providing the market with fully compostable laminate films,” he adds.
Louis Rouhaud, global director of marketing, and Mark Grimbley, CSR manager, Arjobex America, Inc., say Polyart is as a leading manufacturer of synthetic substrates in the front line of sustainability. “We take this subject to heart, and decided to inscribe our development within the principles of the circular economy. All of our grades are recyclable today already; but that is not enough,” they note. “That means that we try our best to use a maximum of our own process waste; in that case, we talk about postindustrial recycled material (PIR) and all of our grades today do have a large part of PIR content. But again, that is not enough, and we try, to the maximum extent, to use a maximum amount of post-consumer waste polymers, in this instance, we talk about PCR material, for post-consumer recycled material; we recently launched the first synthetic paper with 30 percent PCR HDPE on the market, showing the way through lowering our carbon footprint and allowing our customers to fulfill their sustainability goals. We want to lead this path of sustainable synthetic materials, and 30 percent is the first step on this sustainability journey. We plan to extend this R range to all our ranges, from security labels to digital.”
UPM Raflatac aims to find solutions beyond fossils that will replace fossil-based oil and other non-renewable materials with renewable alternatives. “UPM Raflatac combines innovative components and sustainable materials to help our customers realize their vision and hit their sustainability targets,” says Ashley Drew, sustainability manager, UPM Raflatac, Americas.
PPG’s approach to developing sustainably advantaged products and processes is built upon a century of research and development and rooted in environmental and product stewardship. PPG manufactures coatings, materials, and technologies that extend the useful life of products and help their customers reduce energy usage and emissions, protect their employees, and minimize waste and water consumption.
“PPG’s goal is to have 40 percent of sales from products and processes that have improved sustainability over products being replaced by 2025. The company achieved 35 percent of sales in 2020. It further embedded sustainability into product development through an expanded structure, enhanced processes, and new tools,” says Mandingorra.
Below are examples of some eco-friendly/eco-conscious label and flexible media options on the market today.
Arjobex’s R range is available as a face stock for pressure-sensitive converters for applications such as durable labels and chemical drums. “We are testing it now to get the BS5609 certification,” share Rouhaud and Grimbley. “Our R range has also a lot of traction in the beverage industry that is always looking to reduce their carbon footprint. R-Polyart is very attractive for the wine market, where we propose a high-end substrate that looks like paper, can be embossed and textured like paper, but that is resistant to ice bucket. R-Polyart is printable by flexography (flexo), but also, with a proper inline primer, on HP Indigo devices.”
They point out that R-Polyart is also available as an unsupported material for sustainable tags or signage, for instance for the horticultural market, or outdoor displays in supermarkets. The former are usually printed flexo with a thermal transfer variable information printing; the latter are widely printed UV inkjet and give spectacular results on its matte coating.
FLEXcon offers optiFLEX ecoFOCUS with wash-off Adhesive. White, clear, and silver BOPP films with a printable topcoat, combined with the V-52RE wash-off adhesive for PET recyclability. Designed for sustainable packaging applications such as food and beverage, health and beauty, and household chemical labeling.
General Formulations offers several non-PVC print films, which are suitable for both UV and latex print methods.
Innovia Films launched Encore a highly functional sustainable film range in 2020. “These films are manufactured from renewable non-food based raw materials, helping to reduce the use of fossil-based virgin raw materials. They can be manufactured to reduce the carbon footprint of the film or to be fully carbon neutral—cradle to gate. The renewable polymer for Encore is managed through ISCC PLUS chain of custody. They are suitable for use in all market segments currently using BOPP films,” explains Patricia Potts, communications manager, Innovia Films.
Michelman develops new materials and coatings with a sustainability first approach, which Gianluigi Ranken, global marketing manager, digital printing, Michelman, describes as prioritizing health and safety during use and recyclability after use. “Our environmentally friendly solutions for oriented film, foil, and paper substrates are water-based and allow for environmentally friendly and sustainable packaging solutions that improve performance characteristics such as MVTR, OTR, and heat seal with a single coating; downgauge to mono-material structures, eliminating polyethylene, BOPET, PVDC, and EVOH; and enhance the performance of metalized films.
Nobelus’ EcoElement CLS bio-based line consists of several films suitable for multiple print verticals including labels and packaging. “Some variations are fully home compost certified and come in both gloss and matte finishes. This sustainable product line is also helping converters open new avenues of business previously impossible to reach, especially within the thermal laminate flexible packaging space,” says Ranken.
PPG Teslin products are designed to use less plastic due to their unique microporous composition. In order to support their customers’ sustainability needs, PPG introduced PPG TESLIN Bio substrate in 2011. Tested to ASTM D5511 for biodegradation, substantially all of Teslin Bio substrate is ultimately biodegrade into microbe-consumable particles and other naturally occurring substances. Mandingorra says the material breaks down only when placed in an anaerobic—no oxygen, i.e. landfill—environment containing microbes that eat polymers. “Studies have shown up to 8.5 percent degradation over 74 days with continued break down expected, but it isn’t known if the rate of degradation will remain constant over time,” he shares.
Polysack uses machine direction orientation, a technology and process that the company uses to produce MOPE films. “This process elevates and enhances the physical and optical properties of PE and create a highly durable PE film for printing and converting of plentiful flexible packaging applications and structures.”
Polysack Pack ‘N’ Cycle MOPE films are an alternative solution to traditional, non-recyclable, BOPET, BOPA, and BOPP print and barrier films—to be laminated to PE sealants—creating true mono-material PE structures for attainable recycling.
UPM Raflatac SmartChoice and SmartCircle are sustainable product portfolios developed to help customers to make smart choices that support the circular economy and mitigate climate change. UPM Raflatac offers a range of products that lower environmental impact and reduce the strain on natural resources by using label materials that are resource optimized, contain recycled content, go beyond fossils through utilizing responsibly sourced bio-based content and renewable sources; and enable recycling and reuse through wash off products and recycle compatible products.
When moving to eco-friendly media, print providers and consumers are concerned with price and performance. Media suppliers are dedicated to offering products that don’t sacrifice on the latter.
Often, the processes used to develop these options take care to ensure a successful application.
Polyart uses a unique two-step method. All of its base films are coated with a proprietary coating, which covers all the main contamination or gels from the PCR material. In terms of aspect, the company has the cleanest PCR materials on the market, according to Rouhaud and Grimbley. “They basically look like our standard range. Now, inherently, a recycled polymer will have a slightly lower mechanical resistance. This has a limited impact for self-adhesive materials where people look more for a perfect aspect and water resistance—or ice bucket resistance for wine labels for instance—than tear strength. So there are no limitations of constraints in the use or conversion of these materials,” they stress.
Chai says Nobelus’ cellulose film, EcoElement CLS Matte, is superior to traditional BOPP mattes. “In most instances, we observe similar rub resistance and protection to a traditional BOPP laminate. The product is designed to propagate a linear tear more easily and as such it may not be appropriate as a PET replacement for some flexible packaging applications. Heat and sealing parameters must also be validated at the converting line to ensure optimal performance and quality.”
The Innovia Encore film range have exactly the same properties as equivalent fossil based BOPP film—high clarity and gloss, high stiffness, excellent water vapor barrier, and printability, notes Potts.
Specific to flexible packaging, not labels, Gellis does sometimes see performance differences. “However, Polysack’s technology allows adoption of recyclable films with the non- to tiny- differences in performance,” he asserts.
Kroll points out that outdoor durability of the film, conformability for textured wall or complex curve installations, or even basic handling of the generally thinner materials can limit the end use options for these films. They are relegated to flat interior signage,” he admits.
When it comes to recycling media, certain elements may need to be considered, including whether or not typical recycling streams are able to handle the specific type of media; and whether or not the ink type has an effect.
Recyclability requires infrastructure that can recycle Class 5 plastics, which is not readily available in the U.S., points out Mandingorra. “A lot of synthetic paper manufacturers are creating thinner labels, which may make their synthetic papers more difficult to run, to adhere ink to, and to work with. With Teslin substrate, you don’t need to move to a thinner label to reduce plastic use.”
“Beware of making claims about the recyclability of a material; different regions and municipalities have rules and regulations about what can and cannot be recycled and your graphic can be excluded from that for certain inks, or if it is adhesive coated at all,” explains Kroll. “It’s also valuable to note that while these are all oil-derived materials—whether PET, PP, or PVC—the graphic film industry has been working for years to minimize emissions, to reduce or eliminate the use of harmful chemicals in the formulations and improve the sustainability of the manufacturing process overall.”
Drew adds that when looking at recycling, it is important to take the whole package into consideration. “There are many different variables that can influence recycling such as material compatibility with the main packaging component and differences in local recycling infrastructure, technology, and availability/accessibility,” she notes. “While, our label materials may be recyclable, it is critical to design the whole package with recycling in mind. One way we make this easy is by offering a wide range of materials suitable for many different package types. Smart design will allow for recycle compatible products and ultimately lead to higher recycle rates.”
“We try and teach our customers to use our HDPE-based tags and labels as much as they can with HDPE-based packaging, so that we end up with a mono-component material, 100 percent HDPE, and easy to recycle. Allowing to have a source of clean post-consumer material is also part of the circular economy,” share Rouhaud and Grimbley.
Substrate solutions that keep the environment top-of-mind increasingly popular as individuals and organization continue to seek eco-conscious products. Label and packaging media that serves this purpose is available.
Jan2022, DPS Magazine