Global pressure sensitive label material supplier UPM Raflatac says it is making “great progress toward a more circular economy for plastics and a future beyond fossils”, with a raft of measures reducing its environmental impact.
It says one major step in this direction is the debut of UPM Raflatac Forest Film, which it says is the industry's first commercially available polypropylene and polyethylene plastic labeling material derived from wood-based sources.
The company has also launched the SmartChoice and SmartCircle product ranges, to promote label solutions that support the circular economy, and it says, make it easier for customers to find those solutions. In addition, it is continuing the development work to bring new label solutions with recycled content to the market, with a focus on recycled content PE and PP plastic label materials to replace virgin fossil materials.
Reducing raw material use is a priority for UPM Raflatac, last year resource efficiency actions led to a total reduction of 560 tons of plastic labeling materials. This was complemented by a 230 per cent growth in linerless labeling; this solution eliminates the need for label backing material and is suitable in many applications including retail and logistics labeling.
Turning label waste into a resource is also a key component of the circular economy for plastic, and the RafCycle by UPM Raflatac label liner waste recycling program increased its number of global partners from 130 to 150, and a digital solution for the efficient collection of smaller batches was launched.
The company is also taking steps to make its own production facilities more sustainable, including implementing zero waste to landfill targets at all production sites. At present, four of 10 factories worldwide are completely landfill-free and two others landfilled fewer than 25 tons in 2019. Additional steps have been taken to reduce plastic packaging waste in production.
This progress is detailed in the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment 2020 Progress Report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the UN Environment Programme. UPM Raflatac is the only pressure sensitive labeling company to have announced targets for reducing unnecessary plastic packaging as a signatory of the Global Commitment.
As highlighted in the report, UPM Raflatac has continued to develop new sustainable label solutions that focus on more resource-efficient materials, including certified papers, recycled content, solvent-free adhesives, and wash-off and fossil-free solutions.
Robert Taylor, sustainability director, UPM Raflatac says, “At UPM Raflatac, we state that labels matter for implementing a circular economy for packaging materials, and we are proud to highlight the many steps our company has taken in this direction as detailed in the newly published 2020 Global Commitment Progress Report. But we know we have a lot more work to do to achieve our ambitious targets by 2025. As a supplier in the packaging value chain we know that a substantial acceleration of progress will be needed to achieve the 2025 targets and we look forward to the challenge ahead.”
The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with UN Environment Programme (UNEP), with its vision now shared by more than 500 organisations around the world. At the heart of the Global Commitment is a vision of a circular economy for plastic in which it never becomes waste or pollution.
Signatories include companies representing 20 per cent of all plastic packaging produced globally, as well as governments, NGOs, universities, industry associations, investors, and other organisations.
The report shows there has been significant progress in two key areas: the incorporation of recycled content in plastic packaging, and the phase out of the most commonly identified problematic items, such as PS and PVC packaging, undetectable carbon black pigments, and single-use plastic bags and straws.
However, there has been limited progress on increasing recyclability of plastic packaging and reducing the need for single-use packaging altogether: progress on shifting towards reusable packaging is limited, and elimination efforts remain focused on a relatively small set of materials and formats.