Waste Not: Waste Management in Europe's Packaging and Label Industries

Waste management in the packaging industry as a whole, and the self-adhesive label industry in particular, is becoming a key issue in Europe.

In 1994 the European Union (EU) issued its first ever Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, aimed mainly at reducing the amount of landfill and incineration without energy recovery (two major global environmental concerns), and secondly at driving down the levels of waste in the packaging industry as a whole.

To achieve this, the EU encourages the following steps: minimization of the amount of material used in packaging applications; re-use of components; recovery; and recycling.

That “encouragement” has consisted of a series of targets for recovery and recycling, and a revised set of targets for the years 2002-2006 is due for publication later this year, with costs borne by the industry.

The proposed new targets are much more severe than the originals — yet many countries in Europe still fail to comply with the original requirements, and indeed many do not yet have fully established waste management infrastructures to enable recycling and recovery, let alone documentation of levels achieved.

Self-Adhesive Label “Waste”
In the self-adhesive label industry, the implications of these targets have consequences across much of the supply chain.

According to the EU directive, there is considerable specialist “waste” generated in the self-adhesive label process. The laminate manufacturer necessarily creates waste during production. The label printer creates waste during conversion — label matrix, offcuts, and trim. The packaging manager is left, after label application, with siliconized release liner for disposal. Finally, if a product manufacturer does not create a suitable match between container and label material, recyclability can be compromised — creating more waste.

While the EU targets apply across all member companies, implementation is the responsibility of the individual countries themselves. FINAT, the international self-adhesive labeling association based in the Netherlands, and the European Pressure Sensitive Mfrs. Assn. (EPSMA) are spearheading an initiative to “wake up” the individual EU countries to the need to develop waste management infrastructures — matrix, release liner, and unused laminate.

A few EU countries — particularly Germany — have strong, established waste management networks across the whole packaging industry, including the self-adhesive label industry in relation to release liners. However, in most countries few or no steps to implementation have been taken.

Are Release Liners Packaging Waste?
The U.K. government recently ruled release liner is packaging waste, making it the only European country that classifies it as such. The others (and the US) consider it process waste and, therefore, not subject to packaging waste legislation.

The U.K. ruling has major implications across Europe. If the U.K. maintains this unilateral stance, the cost of buying self-adhesive labels in the U.K. will be impacted, according to the British Roll Label Assn., by an increase in charges for packaging waste of at least 150% — a serious disadvantage in an increasingly international market for packaging products as a whole.

It is possible that, to maintain the harmonization that is a keynote of the EU, the question as to whether release liners indeed constitute packaging waste could be reconsidered across all of Europe.

Pan-European Industry Initiative
The FINAT/EPSMA initiative is founded firmly on the fact that, for backing paper or waste matrix, there is absolutely no need for landfill or incineration without energy recovery. However, in the nature of things, without legal or financial pressure, concerted action on an industry-wide basis provokes a laissez-faire attitude.

Utilizing the services of Jacques van Leeuwen (ex Avery Dennison), a dedicated, knowledgeable specialist consultant, FINAT is active on several fronts. Its first task is to raise awareness across Europe of the success stories so far, particularly in Germany, in relation to the well-established scheme for recycling paper release liners. It also is conducting trials with thermal recycling of matrix and laminate waste, which has proven to be a good, clean fuel with a high calorific value.

FINAT also is in touch with national industry organizations, especially those in countries with current or anticipated issues in relation to waste management. Good examples are France — where there is an expectation government may choose the same route as the U.K. in relation to release liner classification as packaging waste — and the U.K. itself. The achievements in Germany and, more recently, in Holland are proving a useful “sales platform” in this respect.

The Technical Challenge of Recycling
FINAT actively participates in finding companies able to collect, recycle, and recover label by-products and is offering technical assistance in setting up such schemes. The conglomerate nature of the self-adhesive laminate makes this a complicated matter.

Release liners — as Ahlstrom Werk in Germany has proved — genuinely are recyclable: The company reuses “clean” paper-based liner to make new liners and other paper products. From a financial point of view, the scheme is quite successful; participating companies pay the freight costs on material collection, and Ahlstrom gets the material free of charge.

Because of the presence of adhesive, matrix waste and make-ready/set-up laminate present a more difficult challenge. Here, thermal recycling (incineration with energy recovery) is proving the best option, and the achievable energy values from matrix waste more than meet the requirements of the Packaging Directive — particularly where film facestocks are used. The compressed nature of set up materials requires shredding prior to incineration. Both matrix waste and set-up materials — mixed with more neutral components such as packaging papers and foils, car upholstery, etc. — can be handled in regular incineration plants and have proved particularly successful for fueling cement ovens.

FINAT also promotes the responsible design and application of self-adhesive labels — which, in many cases, can provide the full gamut of requirements, both decorative and functional, of product identification and protection without the need for secondary packaging such as bags, boxes, and sleeves.

Ambitious Targets
As the European self-adhesive labeling industry wakens to its environmental responsibilities, the discussions affecting the packaging industry as a whole go on in the European Parliament and in two subcommittees, the Environment Committee and the Industry Committee.

Each of these participating bodies has its own view of what the re-use/recycling targets should be. Progress is slow, and agreement on a final legally binding document is not expected before the end of the year — giving the packaging industry just four years to implement the outcome. This is an ambitious task in view of the rigor of the proposals, even without the fact the self-adhesive label industry has yet to put its base level waste management systems in place in many European countries.

Corey Reardon has more than 15 years of management experience in the converting and laminating industry. He is a principal of international market research and consulting firm AWA Alexander Watson Assoc., a company that specializes in supporting the coating, laminating, and converting industries with multiclient and private market studies and industry-specific supply-chain conferences. For more information contact AWA at +31 20 676 20 69; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; http://www.awa-bv.com.

Ways to Help Your Waste
Waste is a by-product of nearly every converting process. By generating less waste, a converter can save money and time without affecting the quality of the manufactured product. There are many ways to do this. Following is a small sampling of products that can help.

Densify and Control Live Edge Trim
Erema North America, Ipswich, MA; 978/356-3771; http://www.erema.net

Live edge trim recycling system reportedly allows efficient, automatic densification of edge trim that can be gravimetrically weighed and controlled easily. During processing, live edge trim is blown to the receiver, which takes in both the transport air and trim and separates it. Trim then is dropped into the densifier drum, which cuts, warms, and densifies the material. The discharge extruder constantly removes material from the drum and produces agglomerate at the end of the screw and barrel. System automatically speeds up, slows down, or stops in response to the volume of trim.

Shredder Brings Multiple Benefits
Franklin Miller Inc., Livingston, NJ; 973/535-9200; http://www.franklinmiller.com

The Taskmaster low-speed, high-torque, twin-shaft shredder reduces bulk solids and debris by up to 80%, aids in recycling, enhances processing and systems, and protects pumps, co. says. Units reportedly are designed with unique seal systems for wet, submerged, or dry operation. Can be supplied as single- or dual-stage units or as complete systems with granulators, conveyors, feeders, and air filtration.

Software Controls Extrusion Waste
Plast-Control, Newburyport, MA; 978/462-0306; http://www.plastcontrol.net

Material Flow Control (MFC) management software now comes with co.'s vacuum loading equipment for all extrusion processes. MFC is said to reduce material waste and purge times significantly during product changeover by precisely translating production goals into material requirements and then monitoring and controlling consumption during production.

Co. also reports its flagship ACS system for total extrusion management and gauge control now is offered with “material minimizing” software (MMS). MMS continually monitors and controls the amount of resin actually in the extrusion system, including the extruder, dosing, and vacuum loading systems, mfr. notes. When enough resin is in the system, MMS automatically shuts off the supply, reportedly ensuring an absolute minimum of material remains when job is complete. New feature allows processors to eliminate a significant amount of material waste, says co., and to reduce changeover times.

Remove Trim on Many MaterialsConverter Accessory Corp., Wind Gap, PA; 800/433-2413; http://www.handleyourweb.com
Fox TrimAway® and Fox Runner® systems (pictured) are said to be engineered for efficient trim removal during production or converting of most web materials, including paper, film, foil, board, nonwovens, and textiles. Effective with trim ranging from 1/6 — 6-in. widths and can operate at speeds to 4,000 fpm. Co. also offers Fox Matrix® system for tag, label, and other narrow web press matrix removal in web widths to 22 in. at speeds to 700 fpm. Waste matrix material can be transported to 60 ft. System easily fits into existing lines, eliminating need for rewinding matrixes, mfr. reports.

Alliance Will Market Bio Reactors
Dynatec Systems Inc., Burlington, NJ; 609/387-0330; http://www.dynatecsystems.com

Co. announces an alliance with NORIT Americas Inc. to market Membrane Bio Reactors (MBR) for industrial applications. The MBR is a compact waste treatment system that combines biological treatment with membrane separation. Systems are said to be capable of processing higher-concentration industrial wastewater. Technology can be applied to new systems or retrofitted to an existing extended aeration or Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) bioreactor.

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