Set up in 2019, PrintCYC is an initiative for recycling and processing printed plastic film waste. It has the support of Huber Group, a leading ink manufacturer and numerous other participants in the plastic film supply chain. The group’s goal is to provide cost-effective and useful new materials made from postindustrial waste. Huber Group and its partners describe PrintCYC (which rather oddly stands for Printed Polypropylene (PP) and Polyethylene (PE) films for mechanical recycling) as “a value chain initiative for the recyling of printed films”. The group includes machine makers and other film specialists as well as Huber.
PrintCYC wants to develop an holistic system that supports a circular economy for printed plastic films. They claim that the PrintCYC approach will generate high quality recyclates comparable to virgin material. It’s an ambitious project which aims to reuse up to 100% of waste plastic films from various packaging applications.
PrintCYC was set up last year and in phase 1 of the project over fifty percent of PP recyclate could be processed into suitable raw materials. More needs to be done on smell, colour and processability but things are moving in the right direction. The PrintCYC members are testing different combinations of ink formulation and substrates. They have found for instance that using a polyurethane based ink, which has high temperature resistance, in flexo printing significantly improved recycling. And the recycled materials had good performance as raw materials.
PrintCYC members are now working to extend membership to include more stakeholders and a wider range of expertise. They are working on Design for Recycling Guidelines to further progress towards a circular economy in the area of plastic film packaging recycling. PrintCYC has come far in a short space of time, despite the problems associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
The packaging industry has little choice but to take active steps to ensure circularity, in line with shareholder, customer and consumer expectations. The goal for PrintCYC should be to provide cost-effective solutions based on postindustrial waste that gets turned into new raw materials, with control over the entire life-cycle of film based packaging. As important as innovation and testing, is development of viable supply chains. Getting waste to suitable plants, processing it efficiently and economically and providing the raw materials in sufficient quantities will be a big challenge. The other challenge for this project is the ink removal phase which is surely crucial to recycling and which adds another complex dimension to logistics and processing.
The companies involved in PrintCYC are deeply committed so perhaps the deinking problem is just a matter of having the right chemistry and the right deinking facilities, much as it is with deinking printed papers. PrintCYC hopefully has the resources to crack this and smoothe out other wrinkles, so we can expect some reduction in plastic pollution which is good news. And perhaps these new raw materials will have other uses beyond the graphics industry.
– Laurel Brunner
This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, Fujifilm, HP, Kodak, Miraclon, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.