Paper sack recycling in Europe
As paper sacks represent only a small fraction of the total paper packaging stream in Europe (1.5%), there is no Europe-wide recycling system solely for paper sacks. Instead, they will mostly be collected as part of mixed paper packaging for recycling streams. They are made up of 91.7% of paper, 2% glues and 1.1% inks. The remaining 5.2% are typically moisture barriers in form of polyethylene film. These materials are separated out in most recycling facilities. Our goal as our industry is to recycle each ingredient of the paper sack in the best way. As a predominantly fibre-based packaging solution, paper sacks are inherently recyclable. Nonetheless, there are numbers of properties of paper sack specifications and designs which may influence the recyclability of individual paper sacks.
The Paper Sacks – Design for Recyclability Guidelines provide recommendations for all materials used in industrial paper sacks. They cover the different fibre types and the eventual additives used in sack kraft paper. For the non-fibre components, the document informs about the implications for recyclability of different barriers that are necessary to keep the packaged product safely. Adding to that, the guidelines focus on inks, varnishes and adhesives as well as additional constructive elements such as carrying handles and patched-in plastic windows.
“Armed with this condensed information, all players in the paper sack business will be well-prepared to maximise the recyclability of the paper sacks they place on the market,” said Plitzko-Kerninon.
Several existing methods and guidelines relevant to the design for recyclability of paper sacks have been referenced in preparation of the Recyclability Guidelines document. The guidelines will be updated regularly to reflect the dynamic situation of the fast-changing technologies and legislations on recycling in Europe.