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What is Recyclable Packaging?

Recyclable packaging refers to packaging which can be recycled into new products, or can be reused after being processed. Recycled products help minimise the use of new resources and to reduce total carbon emissions. Here at ukpackaging, we've looked at what recyclable packaging is, and what packaging materials are recyclable

What Can Be Recycled?

Paper Products

All packaging products which are made using paper-based products are fully recyclable. Corrugated cardboard is one of the most commonly recycled packaging materials, as it is easily recycled by household authorities as well as on a mass scale. Most corrugated cardboard is made up of between 70% and 90% recycled paper material, although some cardboard products can be made using 100% recycled board.

Corrugated cardboard can typically be recycled up to seven times before the material beings to lose the necessary strength required for packaging. Therefore most cardboard mixes recycled materials with virgin fibres in order to improve the integrity of the end product.

The term ‘virgin fibres’ refers to the pulp that is created in the initial process of transforming wood into paper. The most common trees that are used in this process are Birch or Pine, with both being easy and fast-growing trees which can survive a variety of environmental conditions. This allows for the materials to be harvested sustainably from managed forests, as they are grown purely for the intention of material production.

Corrugated Cardboard is typically glued using a water-soluble starch additive, making it also fully biodegradable both commercially and at home.

Recycled Paper Products

Plastics

The vast majority of plastic products can be fully recycled, with the most commonly recycled plastics being Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), and Polypropylene. Alongside more common household plastics, there is also the option of using bioplastics (plastics which are made using marine or plant materials), all of which tend to be fully recyclable however, despite their name, not all of them are biodegradable.

However, the curb side recyclability of these plastics tends to be dependent on local council capabilities (although they can all be recycled at recycling points). It is also important to note that certain plastics, such as those marketed as being biodegradable or compostable, and black plastics, are not only not recyclable, but can also contaminate the entire chain if disposed of incorrectly. Plastics which are designated to be biodegradable or compostable usually include an additive to aid their degradation which can often interfere with the recycling process. Meanwhile, black plastics don’t reflect light, making them difficult to be identified by optical scanners.

Recycled Plastic Products

Metals

Metal typically has a high value as crap due to its recyclability, with the most commonly recycled metals being Steel and Aluminium, and metals having the potential to be recycled endlessly without sacrificing the integrity of the end product. Metals are classified into two categories, ferrous (such as steel and iron) and non-ferrous (such as aluminium, copper, and tin), with ferrous metals using iron in their production.

The recycling of metals requires significantly less energy that the manufacture of new metal using raw materials and helps to emit less CO2 and other gases. Unlike other recycling processes, a large amount of metal is typically sold for scrap as opposed to being recycled at council facilities due to the high monetary value. The recycling of materials is also important due to the permanence of metal as a material, as it can last for a significant amount of time (some metals lasting forever) without degrading, therefore potentially contributing to a lot of the waste in landfill.

Recycled Metal Products

Advantages of Recyclable Packaging

  • - Reduces total material consumption
  • - Less Greenhouse Gases enter the environment
  • - Reduces the Carbon Footprint of the producer and consumer
  • - Enforces a more positive and ecologically responsible image
  • - Has greater audience appeal, reaching the environmentally conscious consumer
  • - Helps to promote and reinforce responsible business practices
  • - Potential Tax Reduction*

Recycling Rates

*This will be especially significant with the UK Governments upcoming Plastic Packaging Tax in April 2022
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