Technological watch

Henkel, Ampacet make black plastic packaging recyclable

Black is a distinctive color, however when that is for plastic containers colored using carbon black there'sa  sutianble downside: the pigment renders them unrecyclable.

However, with supplier Ampacet Corp. (Tarrytown, NY), a global provider of masterbatches, Henkel (Dusseldorf, Germany) is developing an innovative solution for black plastic packaging that is fully recyclable. The new packaging material uses an alternative carbon-free black color, enabling used bottles to be integrated back into the value chain.

It was introduced for black bottles of toilet cleaning products under the Bref brand in May, which will be followed by further Henkel products through the rest of 2019.

“Recognizing that black bottles are one of the central challenges when it comes to recyclability of used packaging, we want to be part of the solution: The new material will contribute to closing the loop of plastic packaging in a sustainable way,” says Vineet Varman, Head of International Packaging Development for Special Detergents at Henkel Laundry & Home Care. “Our joint development projects across all our three business units underline Henkel’s commitment to sustainable packaging and to drive progress toward a circular value chain.”

Making black plastic bottles recyclable

Traditional black plastic packaging poses a challenge for the recycling value chain: recycling facilities use near infra-red (NIR) technology to identify the plastic materials to be recycled. The optical sensors utilize the reflection of light to detect the material and sort it accordingly. Due to presence of carbon black plastic packaging, however, cannot be identified and sorted properly by these optical sensors.

Next to the successful development of the recyclable black bottle for the Bref products, Henkel and Ampacet are currently piloting the new packaging for different products across business units and categories. Through tests under real conditions, the suitability of the new material was confirmed. Cyclos-HTP, an institute specialized in the classification, assessment and certification of recyclability of packaging and goods, certified that Henkel’s carbon-free black color bottles are fully detectable and sortable. Henkel’s packaging development teams are now working on successfully integrating the new material into additional packaging types while ensuring it meets the highest quality standards.

As a next step, they are driving the integration of recycled content in the packaging.

“We are honored to partner with Henkel to support the circular economy with this innovation,” says Philippe Hugelé, Ampacet Strategic Business Manager, Moulding. “As part of our sustainability initiative, our REC-NIR-BLACK carbon-black free masterbatch provides a second life for black plastic packaging by allowing scanning by near-infrared technology for automated sorting at recovery facilities. We are pleased to be able to contribute to packaging recyclability for Henkel’s iconic brands.”

Ampacet’s REC-NIR-BLACK has been named “Product Technology Innovation of the Year” at the Plastics Recycling Awards Europe 2019 in April.

Contribution to Henkel’s packaging targets

The development of recyclable black plastic packaging is another step for Henkel in implementing its packaging strategy and targets: By 2025, 100% of the company’s packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable (excluding adhesive products where residue may affect recyclability or pollute recycling streams). Henkel also wants to increase the share of recycled plastic to 35% for its consumer goods products in Europe by 2025. In order to drive innovation in packaging development and to find effective solutions that can be developed on a large scale, Henkel is engaged in several partnerships and cross-industry initiatives: For example, the company is member of the New Plastics Economy (NPEC), founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) and partner of social enterprise Plastic Bank.

Publication date: 03/07/2019

Plastics Today

This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2020-07-14