The post-consumer processing of mono-material packaging differs significantly from that of poly-material packaging, primarily due to its structural simplicity and homogeneity.
Following are the key features that make mono-material packaging the design of the future:
1. Simplicity in Sorting:
Mono-material packaging is made from a single type of material, such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), or polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This uniformity simplifies the sorting process in recycling facilities. Automated sorting equipment can easily identify and separate mono-material packaging from other materials.
2. Efficient Recycling:
Mono-material packaging is designed for efficient recycling. The homogeneous composition allows a more straightforward recycling process without complex separation techniques. Once sorted, the material can be processed through existing recycling infrastructure with relative ease.
3. Higher Recycling Rates:
Due to the simple structure of mono-material packaging, recycling rates tend to be higher than poly-material packaging. The single-material composition aids effective recovery of the material, contributing to a closed-loop recycling system.
4. Quality of Recycled Material:
The recycling process for mono-material packaging often yields high-quality recycled material. This is because the material is not contaminated with other types of materials, producing recycled products that are more consistent in quality and performance.
As opposed to mono-materials, poly-material packaging can pose much larger sorting and recycling challenges. Not all recycling facilities are equipped to handle the separation of diverse materials, leading to lower recycling rates for packaging types with multiple layers.
In the recycling of poly-material packaging, the recovered materials may undergo downcycling, resulting in lower-quality recycled products. The mixing of different materials can lead to compromises in the mechanical and chemical properties of the newly processed material.
Some case studies and innovations that underpin the growing popularity of mono-material packaging are:
• A recycled and recyclable mono-material tube for L’Occitane en Provence
• Dermalogica chooses Aptar’s fully recyclable mono-material pump Future
• AR Packaging launches Ecoflex® mono-material for thermoformed applications
• Say cheese! Mondi and Skånemejerier partner to introduce mono-material plastic packaging