Recent years have seen a surge in demand for transparent and white recyclates, largely fuelled by Brand Owner commitments and anticipated European Union regulations mandating recycled content in all plastic packaging, as per the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation.

This trend has intensified discussions on how to ensure a steady supply of uncoloured recyclates. In response, some Design for Recycling Guidelines have recently updated their recommendations for white polyolefin (PO) and polystyrene (PS) packaging, advocating against non-physically separable decorations, like direct-print or in-mould labels on rigid containers.

In light of these developments, Siegwerk and Greiner Packaging have initiated a project to thoroughly investigate the recycling potential of such materials. Central to this project was the examination of hot caustic washing processes, traditionally employed in PET bottle recycling and increasingly adopted by PO and PS recyclers.

These more intensive washing processes are not only integral to achieving higher quality recyclates via more effective label removal and cleaning of the flakes to reduce odour of the product, but are also showing promise for ink removal, as summarized in the EuPIA position paper on deinking of plastic packaging waste.

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