‘Groundbreaking’ recyclability tool for fibre-based packaging launches in UK

A new recyclability assessment and certification service has been launched for fibre-based packaging.

Papercycle is described as a ‘groundbreaking’ initiative, especially with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation on the horizon.

Developed by the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) and supported by the UK’s paper-based industries, Papercycle’s automated online tool provides a ‘robust, comprehensive’ system to assess the recyclability of fibre-based products and materials.

It also identifies whether fibre-based packaging materials can be recycled in the UK and which type of recycling mills can reprocess them. Recyclability can be tested at any stage, be it finished or semi-finished products.

Papercycle provides an instant diagnosis on recyclability following the online assessment, but for more complex products or materials, it can conduct laboratory testing under the Confederation of European Paper Industries (Cepi) recyclability test method.

Following a lab test, Papercycle can provide a technical review service on how a product behaves under lab conditions to give an insight into how the various components interact with each other, diagnose the most critical parts, and signpost potential solutions for material modification.

Whilst in principle all fibre-based packaging is recyclable, innovations in material development is said to make some products more challenging to recycle. This means basic recyclability assessments based on visual or a compositional analysis are no longer sufficient to reflect the true recyclability of packaging. This could potentially result in unintended consequences, such as packaging being sent to a recycling facility where it cannot be processed or increased waste and contamination.

To address this, CPI considered local and European industry standards and engaged with stakeholders across the paper industry who are advising on permissible non-fibre levels and parameters to develop Papercycle.

With the EPR reforms underway, Papercycle’s certification service could enable a standardised labelling system where customers could receive a ‘recycle’ label as will be required by the UK’s mandatory recyclability labelling on packaging. Packaging certified as ‘recyclable’ will also attract lower Producer Responsibility (modulated) Fees associated with complying with the reformed Packaging Waste Regulations.

Dimitra Rappou, CPI director of recycling, said, “As packaging materials have become increasingly complex, we have seen growing confusion over the recyclability of materials, with an over simplified assessment approach threatening the quality of recycling. Papercycle’s new service can remove the uncertainty faced by packaging designers, brands, retailers, and policy makers on the recyclability of fibre-based products.

Dimitra Rappou

“We see this playing a crucial role in promoting a circular economy for fibre-based packaging, helping to reduce waste and lower carbon emissions by keeping materials in use for longer. By providing accurate information on recyclability, Papercycle enables brands and manufacturers to design and develop packaging solutions that contribute to a more sustainable future.”

Lead engineer, Dr Ed Jones, at Kelp Industries, added, “The product development service offered by Papercycle has been crucial in landing some key clients for us. The tailored report and post-assessment technical review with Papercycle allowed us to give confidence to our customers, by demonstrating the recyclability of our new materials, and with external validation directly from representatives of the paper processing industry.”