A circular approach to filmic packaging


Promoting a circular economy in flexible film packaging is essential and is leading the development of new products across a wide variety of market sectors, explains Julie Eller, sales director at RPC bpi protec

IT is clear that consumers are increasingly demanding packaging that minimises its impact on the environment.  Last year, we carried out a survey of 1,000 British consumers which identified that 83% were more likely to choose products with either less packaging or recyclable packaging, and 82% would use the services of a company that makes an effort to recycle and cut down waste. This underlines how sustainability has become an important factor in purchasing decisions.  

As with any packaging solution, the challenge for film manufacturers is to deliver sustainability while still providing effective protection and brand enhancement to their goods. 

The development of our own X-EnviroShrink is a prime example of this. The film contains a minimum of 30% recycled content and is also 100% recyclable itself, making it fully in line with the latest government proposals for plastic packaging. Equally important, X-EnviroShrink is the ideal collation shrink film for a wide variety of products and markets, from beverage cans and bottles to canned food and cartons. It is available in both plain and printed versions and allows high-speed and efficient packing methods to be utilised in both a single or twin lane. In this way, it helps manufacturers maximise cost-effectiveness and speed-to-market as goods are shipped in lightweight packaging to supermarket shelves.

The incorporation of the Sustane recycled polymer from RPC bpi recycled products also demonstrates the closed loop approach that is critical to successful sustainable packaging solutions. The sourcing of appropriate waste material is therefore important and ensuring the recyclability and recycling of plastic films is key. Sustane has gained the European Certificate for Plastics Recycling (EUCertPlast) and gives confidence to customers in both the quality and traceability standards being followed throughout the recycling process of post-consumer waste and the ability to ascertain the source of any recycled material. 

As an example, the introduction of our protec Reprocess Scheme enables us to capture surplus plastic packaging and turn it into second-life products. Unused wicketted polythene (PE) bags and PE films are returned to our sites and then passed to our recycling division to create a variety of no maintenance, sustainable and cost-effective Plaswood products such as activity tables and benches. Plaswood is produced using 100% recycled PE, diverting valuable waste from landfill and providing a realistic, long-lasting alternative to hardwood that itself can be fully recycled at the end of its use. 

Currently the RPC bpi group reprocesses around 135,000 tonnes of plastic every year, making useful second-life products and is one of the UK’s leading plastic recyclers. This ability to build recyclability into product design and produce new items from the recycled material is a fundamental part of the circular economy that is at the heart of delivering effective sustainability to consumers.

As an added advantage all protec Reprocess Scheme collections are made by lorries on their return journey from making a delivery to customers, saving on fuel costs and the CO2 footprint of transportation. It is this joined up thinking that ensures filmic packaging not only delivers the benefits to manufacturers from protecting, transporting and enhancing goods, but that it is also part of a sustainable, closed-loop solution that truly minimises its impact on the environment.  

At the same time, our consumer research also revealed that while 80% of those surveyed recycle all the time, and 73% said they understood the particular recycling requirements of their local area, there were still 24% who only ‘somewhat’ understood the rules behind recycling. Continued consumer education in plastics recycling ‘best practices’ is therefore still needed and, for filmic packaging in particular, understanding what actually is recyclable remains a major requirement. Alongside this ongoing education is a commitment from industry to continue to work on the development of new materials and products that make it possible for consumers to recycle. At bpi protec we have developed a range of 100% recyclable high barrier films, X-EnviroFilm, which can replace laminates and run on existing packing machinery, without any compromise in packing efficiency or food shelf life. Films are available on the reel and as pre-made stand up pouches and offer both oxygen and moisture barriers to ensure their use across a wide variety of goods.

Undoubtedly innovation in film technology through products and services will remain an essential part of delivering the sustainable filmic packaging solutions now demanded. By continuing with this development as well as improving consumers’ ability and understanding on the opportunities to recycle films, we will ensure our industry delivers a truly circular approach to filmic plastics.