According to the new UK recycling recommendations, paperboard packaging may contain up to 15 percent plastic and still be considered recyclable and sorted in the waste stream for paper materials. Compared with all-plastic packaging one item of such packaging can have 80 percent less climate impact, says Jonas Adler, Director New Business Development at Iggesund Paperboard.
Yet as of January 2023, the permitted plastic content will be reduced to 10 per cent of the packaging’s weight.
However: “This is a good decision which establishes clear rules for a number of years ahead,” says Ginny Samuel, Business Development Manager at Iggesund Paperboard.
“Those of us who work with paper- and paperboard-based packaging have been challenged to develop solutions using less material but we’ve also been given time to do this.”
The UK labelling organisation OPRL (On-Pack Recycling Label) OPRL originally wanted to allow far less than 15 per cent plastic content in fibre-based packaging.
But an increasing awareness of packaging’s climate impact has already persuaded numerous major brand owners to start replacing their all-plastic solutions. This is particularly the case with food packaging, where plastic is often necessary as a barrier against moisture, grease or aroma. Setting the limit for plastic content too low would have risked slowing down this development.
The goal of the paper and board industry is to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of plastic in this type of product – a step that requires new, fossil-free barriers. Development work is being done in many places, and new and increasingly better solutions will undoubtedly be presented within the next few years.
While OPRL’s guidelines are primarily intended for the UK market, they will also be significant outside the UK, thinks Jonas Adler.
“Because so many strong brands are based there, these guidelines will definitely have an impact outside the British Isles.”
Moreover, material manufacturers cannot bear all the responsibility for closing the recycling circle, he added.
“The recycling systems and their facilities must also be developed so that they can handle the new, resource-efficient material solutions. OPRL’s recommendation gives both them and the material producers time to adapt, and thereby creates the conditions to make the packaging industry even more circular.”