The enthusiasm for plastics reuse and recycling initiatives is a step in the right direction, but it overlooks the role of consumers. For most people understanding what can and cannot be recycled is difficult, so perhaps the graphics industry can help. Perhaps plastic materials that can be composted should be marked as such, and brand owners could consider expanding efforts to aid guidance.
At the recent Xeikon Café event in Belgium, on display were samples of single use cups printed on a new plastic free stock. Xeikon announced that it is partnering with Kotkamills, a Finnish company which develops repulpable, recyclable and renewable paperboards for packaging and food service applications. Kotkamills is one of twelve recent winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge and Xeikon has been involved in testing its prize winning material. The organisation behind the NextGen Cup Challenge is a consortium set up to address the problem of global food packaging waste and improving the associated supply chains.
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Packaging printed onLow Density Polyethylene (LDPE) is changing. LDPE is the cheapest and most commonly used recyclable plastic but it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade. This is in part why various packaging print buyers are moving to alternatives and a key candidate is plastics made from potato starch instead of polythene. Oxy-biodegradeable polymers cost 20% more than LDPEs but they can be composted, which is the good news. But they pose a problem in the recycling chain because they must be processed for composting which is unlikely to happen. This is not so good. Should consumers be offered composting options or should they opt for LDPE packaging which can be recycled or incinerated to generate energy?
A couple of weeks ago we talked about the need for designers to think about the environment when planning media projects. This is especially important in the context of deinking and recycling. But it goes further than thinking about substrates, inks, energy and printing processes. Water solvents, transportation, packaging, all of them contribute to the environmental impact. Ultimately a media project’s design, including the printed components, determines a job’s environmental footprint.