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Designed for Recycling: Moving from a Linear Economy to a Closed Material Cycle

Scrunchable, robust and versatile – flexible packaging for potato chips, fruit juices, coffee, detergents and even adhesives are an attractive proposition. However, these so-called laminates have the disadvantage that they are sometimes difficult to return to the economy. Why? Many flexible packages consist of different layers of material that, although bonded together, are disparate, largely incompatible and essentially non-miscible. In order to be efficiently processed and recycled, therefore, they need to be separated.

Working closely with partners from the packaging industry, Henkel Adhesive Technologies has taken up this challenge – as explained by Alexander Bockisch, Market Development Manager Flexible Laminates: “There are several hurdles to overcome at the various stages in the chain that extends from sorting to recycling plastic laminates. Our solutions can help increase recyclability of post-industrial waste from packaging manufacturers as a first step.” Adhesive Technologies sees three different approaches to increasing the recycling rate: The development of multilayer composites made of compatible materials, the separation of incompatible layers after use, and the application of compatible coatings instead of incompatible plastic laminates.

"We are driving force in circular economy"

In addition to this project, Henkel is also involved in various programs aimed at improving recyclability – for example, as a partner of the “New Plastics Economy,” an initiative that advocates an effective, functional recycling system for plastics; and also as a founding member of CEFLEX, a cross-industry consortium of 38 companies covering the entire value chain of flexible plastic packaging. Henkel is represented in various working groups formed as part of this initiative, not only through Adhesive Technologies, but also more recently through Laundry & Home Care and Beauty Care. “With our involvement and expertise, we are a driving force in the circular economy – very much in keeping with our values and our commitment toward continuously extending our leading role in the field of sustainability,” says Dr. Dennis Bankmann, Product Development Flexible Laminates Europe.

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