- Paper packaging is recyclable as a material, and kerbside collections of waste paper are widely carried out by local authorities making it easy for consumers to recycle. Therefore around 80% of paper is recycled in the UK.
- Paper packaging includes cardboard, moulded pulp, corrugated cardboard, tissue paper, white news offcuts, kraft wrapping paper, etc.
- Some plastics are recyclable. This depends on the type of plastic. And how clean it is. And whether your local authority can actually find someone to recycle it.
- Plastic water bottles have the highest recycling rate because they are clean, and usually made from clear plastic (PTFE).
- Biodegradable and compostable plastics CANNOT be recycled.
- According to The Guardian, a high proportion of waste plastic designated for recycling is being incineratedbecause developing countries are now refusing to accept delivery of waste plastic.
- QUOTE: “As of 2015, approximately 6,300 million tonnes of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.” (see citation below)
There are many claims about recyclability
In the context of reducing plastic pollution and saving the environment, conserving earth’s natural resources then recycling is beneficial and desirable.
Recyclability of a material has to include how likely the packaging will be recycled.
Firstly, there needs to be the infrastructure at household level to recycle any packaging. And then there needs to be the infrastructure at local authority level to recycle.
Which plastics can be recycled?
Follow the link below for an excellent overview of different plastics and their recyclability.
Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. (extract)
Plastics have outgrown most man-made materials and have long been under environmental scrutiny. However, robust global information, particularly about their end-of-life fate, is lacking. By identifying and synthesizing dispersed data on production, use, and end-of-life management of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives, we present the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured.
We estimate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date. As of 2015, approximately 6,300,000,000 tonnes of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.
Geyer, Roland & Jambeck, Jenna & Law, Kara. (2017). Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science Advances. 3. e1700782. 10.1126/sciadv.1700782.
Corrugated Cardboard (including boxes)
Corrugated board is usually made from 70% recycled paper and is 100% recyclable. They are held together by water soluble starch based adhesive. These can easily be recycled by local authorities.
Gummed paper tape
Kraft paper tape with a water soluble starch based adhesive that is water activated. This is 100% recyclable, and as a bonus, gives the most secure seal of all standard box sealing tapes.
Kraft self adhesive tapes
These can be applied by standard pistol grip dispensers as an alternative to plastic self adhesive tapes
Paper cushioning is produced by a machine in varying formats. Some machines only dispense a low grade top fill, while others make a more complex paper cushion which is surprisingly strong, and excellent for protecting heavy products.
Paper surface protection
There are several options including Geami paper, HexcelWrap and bubble paper. These are all applied in a different way and have features that are beneficial when compared.
Paper mailing bags
These are the traditional paper mailing bags that were predominately used up to the late 1990’s before being replaced by polythene mailing bags. These are 100% recyclable.
Moulded pulp (egg boxes)
This is recyclable, biodegradable and compostable and is an alternative to polystyrene and moulded foam inserts. However, if you want a bespoke design mould then the creation of a mould is very expensive with high minimum order quantities. A bespoke mould could cost up to £20,000.
While many plastics are technically recyclable, as we have seen above, plastic recycling is currently problematic. Also, biodegradable and compostable plastics are not recyclable as they will contaminate the recycled plastic making it unusable for manufacturing durable products.
Therefore, I have not highlighted any plastic packaging products as being 100% suitable for recycling at this point in time.