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A colourless world of recycling?

Both the manufacturers of packaging as well as the consumers make high demands in terms of its appearance. At the same time, the desire for increased use of recycled materials is growing. Coloured plastics, however, often pose a stumbling block for recycling and colouring recycled plastic materials also has some pitfalls. How colourful can a more sustainable packaging world still be in the future?

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Options for colouring post-consumer recycled material in the packaging sector

Both the manufacturers of packaging as well as the consumers make high demands in terms of its appearance. At the same time, the desire for increased use of recycled materials is growing. Coloured plastics, however, often pose a stumbling block for recycling and colouring recycled plastic materials also has some pitfalls. How colourful can a more sustainable packaging world still be in the future?

Striking images of littered beaches and plastic bottles in rivers and lakes are putting a lot of pressure on the plastics industry. In the packaging sector especially, concepts for recycling plastics are experiencing increasing demand. Major manufacturers and brand owners are increasingly driving their implementation throughout the supply chain. As part of these sustainability projects, waste collection systems such as the DSD system (Duales System Deutschland - the Green Dot) will play an even greater role in the future for recovering recyclable materials from collected plastic waste, thus creating a closed-loop system for packaging applications.

A look at the collected material before the reprocessing stage of the Alba Group plastics recycler provides exemplary insight into how varied plastic waste is. Packaging made of various plastics, predominantly polyester, polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE), differs both in terms of colour and the manufacturing process. At recycling companies such as Alba, the heterogeneous collected material must first be laboriously separated according to polymer classes and colours, washed and then processed for use as plastic recycled materials – referred to in common practice as post consumer recyclates or post consumer resins (PCR).

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