In a first and unique collaboration for the personal care industry, Clariant, Siegwerk, Borealis, and Beiersdorf are combining expertise to tackle the challenge of creating recyclable consumer packaging with a target of 100% recovery of plastic packaging waste. Named "Design4Circularity", the pioneering initiative is yielding innovations and insights for the different design aspects to encourage others to join the design for circularity principles.
The goal of the cross-industry collaboration is to create a new circular packaging standard that supports reduced plastic waste, less use of new/virgin plastic material, and reduced climate impact.
Richard Haldimann, Clariant’s chief technology and sustainability officer, says “This collaboration was possible because all participants are dedicated to circular economy, with company-wide programs and holistic understanding of the systems involved. Achieving circularity needs a complete shift in designing product packaging and packaging raw materials, considering sortation, recycling, and packaging end-of-life.”
Stefan Haep, Siegwerk’s technology head brand owner collaboration, adds “Our initiative is a frontrunner in uniquely assessing circularity in every design parameter, from additives to bottle material to inks, mapping industry competencies, potential gaps, and feasibility proof points to open up viable, ultimately circular solutions.”
In addition to creating a loop of high-value applications, the iniative should also allow for the high-quality visuals and distinctive shapes consumers associate with cosmetics packaging and brands.
The program is based on using a colorless polyolefin bottle with 100% post-consumer recycle (PCR) content, full-body shrink-sleeve labels using a printed, de-inkable sleeve. All materials are technically fully recyclable with the potential to be recovered and used for the same high-value application.
Image courtesy of Clariant
“We follow an ambitious Sustainability Agenda including the vision of fully circular resources,” explains Beiersdorf packaging expert Stefan Rüster. “The Design4Circularity packaging solution is ground-breaking for future cosmetics applications. Through the hard work and innovation power of all collaboration partners involved, we have managed to combine the high design requirements of a cosmetic packaging with full circularity. We are very proud of this success and hope that this motivates our industry peers to follow.”
Peter Voortmans, Borealis, global commercial director consumer product, adds “Transforming to a circular economy is a team effort. Only together with like-minded partners can we shape an ‘ever mindful’ tomorrow. It starts with packaging design in combination with the right sorting and recycling infrastructure, and through collaboration we reinvent essentials for sustainable living.”
Designed to be recycled again and again.
To give packaging waste a second life, the packaging material needs to retain high-value through multiple lifecycles. Borealis brought its expertise in advanced, transformational mechanical recycling technology by offering high quality PCR based on proprietary Borcycle M technology.
Additionally, Clariant brought expertise in design for recycling additive solutions to ensure targeted additives protect PCR quality and protect against polymer chain breakdown at each recycling step. This delivered a suitable, high-value PCR material to repeatedly hit the high-end criteria of personal care-related consumer packaging. The circular solution additionally focuses on a colorless bottle option to increase PCR quality after recycling.
For the sleeve labels, Siegwerk was able to provide ink systems, which in collaboration with Beiersdorf and a sleeve manufacturer, allowed printing of the sleeve to realize a full body, colored and appealing cosmetic sleeve. Additionally, the new ink composition was designed to allow de-inking of the sleeve within a recycling process to increase the circularity of the packaging. The bottle/shrink sleeve combination is intended for removal at a materials recovery facility.
First sorting trials in existing recycling infrastructure proved the successful sortation of the full body sleeved high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottle in achieving a high recovery of the bottle material. Additionally, the project team conducted trials with full body sleeved, transparent PET bottles and achieved similar results.
Further advancements in sorting technology are needed to achieve the final goal of circular economy to give colorless bottles a second life back in colorless applications that retaining superior value. Technologies such as digital watermarking or artificial intelligence could help such sustainability goals to be reached.