Takeout containers help our burgers, pizzas and tacos stay hot while keeping our hands clean, but they also take up a lot of space in landfills.
Most takeout containers are thrown away after their useful life has passed, because despite being composed primarily of paper, a polyethylene-based liquid barrier prevents them from being properly recycled.
Containers and other food packaging account for over 23 percent of materials that enters landfills in the U.S. They are sometimes improperly disposed of, harming wildlife and the environment.
In order to meet rising consumer demand for more sustainable packaging options, formulators are looking for high-performance liquid barriers that are easily recyclable and integrable into their operations.
JONCRYL HPB 4010 and JONCRYL HPB 4030 products enable the formulation of heat-sealable liquid polymer barriers that enables repulpability and recyclability with resistance properties comparable with extruded polyethylene barriers.
What do we mean by repulpability and recyclability?
Great question! Repulpability refers to the ability to convert paper back into pulp, whereas recyclability is generally about the capability of being processed into new paper or paperboard.
Now formulators can use JONCRYL HPB 4010 and JONCRYL HPB 4030 to create repulpable and recyclable packaging according to the Fibre Box Association (FBA) voluntary standard for corrugated boxes, internal lab testing, and third-party industrial testing. Repulpability and recyclability depend on specific process, product, and polymer of choice. Contact a BASF expert to understand these options.
Ready for repulping and recycling
The separation process is the greatest challenge in recycling, because although paper containers themselves are easily repulpable and recyclable, most facilities are not equipped to separate the polyethylene barrier extruded onto them.
“Polyethylene is extruded onto paper and used in a variety of packaging applications to provide a liquid barrier,” says Simon Foster, Head of Global Marketing, Paper for Printing and Packaging, Resins at BASF. “However, it is very difficult to then remove that extruded polyethylene from that paper substrate, and therefore those packages cannot be recycled.”
Many consumers, unaware of the issue, attempt to recycle the non-recyclable containers. Now, with water-based barrier coatings, they can recycle to their hearts’ content.
“JONCRYL HPB 4010 and JONCRYL HPB 4030 products work together in a customer formulation to form a functional barrier applied to the package that does not inhibit the repulpability of that paper, and therefore the recovery of fibers in that paper is not challenged by the addition of this barrier,” explains Foster. “The concept of ‘it's made of paper, so it can be recycled’ is more achievable with JONCRYL HPB 4010 and JONCRYL HPB 4030 products.”
"We know that on the sustainability journey different brand owners and consumers want a solution, so the idea is for the mills and MRFs to know there is an alternative with our products to enable repulpability and recyclability so that the paper cups or box containers that normally have rich long fiber can be kept inside the paper waste-stream" – says Regina Escandon Millet, Commercial Marketing Manager.
Merging sustainability with performance
Polyethylene’s popularity as a barrier in packaging can be attributed to its strong resistance properties and ease of application, but its persistence in the environment poses a variety of sustainability issues.
With JONCRYL HPB 4010 and JONCRYL HPB 4030 , formulators don’t have to compromise on performance for sustainability.
“JONCRYL HPB 4010 and JONCRYL HPB 4030 have many of the performance characteristics of extruded polyethylene regarding water, block and crease resistance, with the added value of enabling repulpability and recyclability,” says Foster.
Application flexibility is also an important consideration for formulators. JONCRYL HPB 4010 and JONCRYL HPB 4030 based formulations are able to compete closely with polyethylene solutions and are able to be applied in a number of coating processes.
“As a water-based coating solution, JONCRYL HPB 4010 and JONCRYL HPB 4030 can be applied using a variety of methods, such as rod coating or gravure coating, so the application method is a little different from polyethylene which is extruded,” says Foster. “But a cup or a package can be sealed in some of the same ways as polyethylene without requiring many changes in terms of equipment, temperatures or the speed of runs.”
“Our solution fits into the package-converting infrastructure that exists, even though the application method or the coating method is a little different.”
The JONCRYL HPB 4010 and JONCRYL HPB 4030 series has also been approved by the FDA for direct food contact, meaning it can be used for packaging that contains food, such as takeout boxes and cups.
Consumers care about circularity
Businesses across a wide variety of industries have set lofty sustainability goals to be achieved by the year 2025, a rapidly approaching deadline. As more consumers call for sustainable solutions in products and packaging of all types, formulators and producers need to work together to create a circular economy.
Although some countries don’t yet have specific regulations governing the recyclability of food packaging containers, consumer awareness of the issues surrounding unrecyclable packaging is pushing the industry to make changes.
In a recent survey, 43 percent of U.S. consumers described environmental impact as extremely or very important for packaging, and another study found that 74 percent said they would pay more for sustainable packaging.
“Consumers are becoming more aware about their own environmental impact and are inducing those values onto the products and services they consume,” says Foster. “It's raising the bar for brand owners to be more environmentally-focused, reduce their carbon footprint and enable circularity and sustainability for packaging.”
“It's truly being driven by consumer demand.”