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Mixed material packaging for powdered and pumpable foods and other products in thin-walled PP containers wrapped tightly in a paperboard sleeve printed with high-impact graphics can be easily separated by consumers for recycling.

Rick Lingle, Senior Technical Editor

March 13, 2018

3 Min Read
Hybrid paperboard-plastic packaging optimized for recycling

Mixed material packaging is generally recycling-unfriendly and the collection of  such materials when it involves plastics is often left to "upcyclers" like TerraCycle (Trenton, NJ) or waste-to-fuel companies if it can be diverted from landfills at all.

However, there’s mixed material packaging made of plastic and paperboard that ingeniously and easily separates for recycling after use: The K3 paperboard-plastic combinations from Greiner Packaging (Kremsmünster, Austria), that has been popular for years for packaging products like yogurt, cream cheese and muesli.

A low proportion of polypropylene plastic in the packaging means reduced carbon dioxide emissions while the paperboard wrap provides structural stability and high-impact printed graphics for a distinct look. Marketing messages can be printed on the wrap interior as well, and punched windows or embossed printing can likewise be added. A zipper on the paperboard sleeve permits the paperboard to be separated from the PP container after use.

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Interest in sustainability in general combined with brands’ specific corporate commitment to packaging-driven sustainability goals has increased attention to these materials.  The K3-F, equipped with a special folding wrap, is now catching a lot of attention in other branches as well as a solution that not only meets environmental and design demands, but also helps reduce inventory to a minimum.

A collaboration between Greiner Packaging and Henkel (Düsseldorf, Germany) exemplifies the successful implementation of K3-F packaging: The original packaging for Duo-Caps and Power-Mix Caps started in transparent plastic containers and was changed to opaque containers in 2015. To ensure an appealing appearance, Henkel recently decided on an alternative packaging solution: K3-F, which hits the mark not just with an attractive design, but also helps save plastic. With K3-F Henkel is able to achieve a 100% recyclable packaging when separating carton from plastic.

“The attractive wrap around decoration of our packaging solution perfectly echoes what our customer was imagining,” says Robert Obermayr, product group director at Greiner Packaging.  “Changing to the K3-F packaging has also meant that Henkel is able to achieve a 100 percent recyclable packaging when separating the cardboard wrap from the plastic container. The boxes are tested child-resistant, ensuring safe and sustainable handling on all levels.”

The new packaging has been commercially available in Western and Eastern Europe starting September 2017.

The hybrid paperboard-plastic format in the similar K3-H version also gained a foothold in the United States in late 2017, as reported by sister publication Packaging Digest (see Skyr retells its story via innovative packaging, published December 2017). Brand owner Icelandic Provisions (New York City) switched from a printed shrink-sleeved polypropylene cup to a clear PP cup with an easily removable printed paper wrapped-label that also covers the cup base and is printed with additional product information on the back. When separated, both components are 100% recyclable, according to the brand.

K3-F packaging customers receive the plastic containers and folded paperboard wrap separately. The wrap is folded and placed over the containers until just before filling takes place. K3-F is especially suitable for customers who offer their product in various markets or under different brands, and can use a variety of decorations. This reduces inventory to a minimum. The sustainable packaging solution is suitable for food in powder form, but can also replace round or bag packaging types such as those used for pet food. K3-F packaging can also replace coated packaging solutions including for detergents, or cardboard packaging in cereals, for example, in which an additional plastic package is integrated.

Whether round or square, injection-molded or thermoformed container, K3-F packaging can be implemented for any customer requirement. Greiner Packaging also offers plastic containers as well as paperboard wraps and lid solutions including childproof packaging.

About the Author(s)

Rick Lingle

Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday

Rick Lingle is Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree from Clarke College and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-481-1426.

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