Recycling: How smarter adhesives play a role

Enabling new lives for valuable materials

Now more than ever, the future of our planet is a concern to consumers. Our throwaway culture is producing record volumes of waste. Recycling may seem an obvious way to tackle the problem, but it can be a complex process when involving mixed materials, which can be difficult to recycle.

At Henkel, we work further up the production chain, innovating sustainable solutions that will ensure packaging can be easily and efficiently recycled – so that the valuable materials can be used again and again. And much of this innovation is focused on adhesives.

The adhesives used in packaging typically make up no more than five percent of the total weight – yet, their properties can make the difference when it comes to the overall recyclability of the material. For example, our Aquence XP range for the labeling of glass containers can withstand major temperature fluctuations, high air humidity and condensation without detaching. Yet it can be easily separated at a later stage to comply with recycling requirements. Many of our adhesive labeling solutions are designed this way – to be both functional and sustainable. 

The same can be said for our range of adhesives that are designed for plastic bottle labeling – such as the ones commonly used for beverages and laundry detergent. These adhesives enable the clean removal of the label, which means the material separation in the recycling process is more efficient – resulting in high-quality recovered materials.

We also provide solutions for flexible packaging – one of the fastest-growing segments within the consumer packaging industry. Flexible packaging combines the best attributes of different materials – including plastic, film and aluminum – to create high-performance packaging for food and non-foods. The attributes chosen ensure freshness, safety, light weighting, barrier properties and more. However, these packages are difficult to recycle by design, often containing two or more different kinds of materials that cannot be returned to separate streams. The result: valuable materials are lost after a single use.

To overcome this challenge, we’ve been working with the German-based recycling specialist Saperatec since 2016 on developing and enhancing customized recyclable adhesives that, together with Saperatec’s technology, enable the separation of the individual layers found in such packaging. This partnership offers manufacturers an innovative and cost-efficient recycling technology that makes it possible to reintroduce production waste consisting of polyethylene (PE), aluminum and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) into the raw-material cycle, all thanks to the right adhesive design.

“Based on our many years of experience in the flexible packaging industry, we develop laminating adhesives with the highest standards of food safety, performance and efficiency. Our adhesives for the Saperatec process combine all these properties with an optimized separation behavior.” – Helga Garmann, Head of Product Development at Loctite Liofol Europe.

This is the power of adhesives. Find out how partnering with us can increase the sustainability of your designs.

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