Partnership brings recyclable black plastic to light

By Jenni Spinner in Sustainable Packaging on October 31, 2019

Henkel and masterbatch producer Ampacet have joined forces to develop a recyclable black plastic. The carbon-free black plastic alternative enables containers to be recyclable more readily than previously possible in conventional recycling streams.

Traditionally, black plastic thwarts recycling technology because infrared (IR) cameras used to scan containers cannot sort the containers, so black packages don’t get sorted and end up in landfills instead. The REC-NIR Black masterbatch is designed to be near-infrared (NIR) transparent to allow scanning by NIR technology for automated sorting at recovery facilities. Colin Zenger, Henkel’s sustainable packaging head, laundry and homecare sector, says the material can be sorted with little or no modifications at facilities.

“If sorting is done by hand, there is no change with the new masterbatch,” he says. “But it helps the NIR scanner in automated sorting to see and detect the bottle correctly.”

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To recycle containers made with the masterbatch, consumers must first remove the shrink label. Henkel has designed a zipper to incorporate in the labels of such packages. According to Zenger, the company is rolling out targeted information to educate consumers about how to remove the label before processing.

The REC-NIR Black material has made its retail debut in Bref toilet cleaning products, produced by Greiner Packaging. The cleaning products are sold in under various brands internationally. Michael Frick, global key account director, Greiner Packaging, says the material works in line with the company’s sustainability goals.

“We’re constantly working to improve product recyclability, so naturally we’re delighted to see innovations like this one,” Frick says.

Cyclos-HTP, a German organization that classifies, evaluates and certifies packaging recyclability, confirmed the effectiveness of the new black plastic in undecorated containers. Additionally, Henkel confirmed packaging using the material, after the perforated sleeve is removed, can easily be sorted and recycled.

“In Greiner Packaging, we’re pleased to have found a competent project partner we’ve been able to work with to implement this innovative packaging concept,” says Frick.

A member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (which promotes increased sustainability in various fields), Greiner Packaging has pledged to make 100% of its packaging 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

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Jenni Spinner

Freelance writer and former Packaging Digest senior editor Jenni Spinner is a trade journalist with more than two decades of experience in the field. While she has covered numerous industries (including construction, engineering, building security, food production and public works), packaging remains her favorite.

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Just FYI, there are other technologies out there (current and under development) that are able to sort carbon black containing black plastics. It is therefore wrong to say that those plastics necessarily are ending up in landfill !!! They can be sorted and recycled.
Just FYI, there are technologies out there (current and under development) that are able to sort carbon black containing black plastics. It is therefore wrong to say that such products necessarily end up in landfill. Carbon black containing black plastics can be sorted and recycled !!!