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Siegwerk and APK AG succeed at de-inking of plastic film-recyclate

Siegwerk, providers of printing inks for packaging applications and labels, and APK AG, a specialist in the production of high-quality plastic recyclate from packaging waste, successfully completed de-inking trials of twofold printed LDPE-films. The strategic cooperation of the two companies, which started in October 2019, contributes its first ground breaking insights to facilitating the efficient recycling of flexible packaging applications.

‘Design for recycling – ideally enabling product to product recycling – is crucial to closing the loop for flexible packaging. For Siegwerk this means providing innovative printing inks and lacquers, which facilitate high-quality recycling – for example by allowing easy de-inking while keeping full performance during the use phase‘, says Alina Marm, Head of Circular Economy Hub at Siegwerk. In spring 2020 the Research and Development unit of APK AG tested a number of LDPE-film samples, which had been printed twofold with yellow, red, black and blue inks of Siegwerk.

The test series aimed to establish, whether APK AG’s solvent-based recycling technology Newcycling could fully remove Siegwerk’s inks from the polymer matrix. The film samples were treated with the Newcycling solvent and dissolved. The obtained polymer solution still contained printing ink-components. The dispersed inks were then removed with a filter unit explicitly designed for the process step of de-inking, featuring a very high selectivity level. The de-inking tests of the red, black and blue samples produced a ‘near-virgin’ transparency. In case of the film printed with yellow ink a marginal yellowness remained after the treatment. The printing inks from Siegwerk have proven to be suitable for solvent-based recycling processes.

Hagen Hanel, Head of Plastics Recycling Innovation Center at APK AG explains“In line with the principles of the EU Green Deal and the new Circular Economy Action Plan our Newcycling®-technology aims at closing cycles for flexible packaging solutions that are deemed ‘un-recyclable’ up to now. We aspire to combine environmental benefits of recycling with high-quality performance of the recyclate”.

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