Is your Packaging Really Recyclable?

by | 17 May, 2019

As we see a change in the recycled market, both consumers and suppliers are moving toward the ‘recyclable’ moniker for packaging, a question arises whether the packaging is actually 100% recyclable?

The reasons for this change in trend is mostly attributed to the realisation that recycling products for re-use in the same application can be a costly and less than eco-friendly process. 

In terms of printed packaging and of course printed marketing collateral, the chemistry needed to break down the paper to a pulp like state is not insignificant. This is to create paper and card that will be acceptable for the printing process, but there are many more applications that these materials can be sued for that could require less processing, less chemistry (think kitchen roll cores or corrugated card board.)

In fact the demand for recycled graphical board and paper for printing is so low there have been notable closures on mainland Europe at processing plants. This has lead to a much distilled range of recycled papers available in the UK today.

BUT! All is not lost, the appetite for card and paper for recycling is growing exponentially for alternative uses, with waste paper now holding a commercial value for recycling purposes.

This coupled with the increasing forestry in Northern Europe which has seen an increase in forestry in Europe of an area equivalent to the size of Switzerland in the last decade means we can rest easy that the UK is now in a great place in terms of the recycling of waste paper.

The original question posed was hinting at the nuances of recyclable packaging, there are some sticking points which some businesses aren’t able to answer more overcome.

Here are some examples of parts of product packaging which may not be recyclable…


  1. Laminated packaging: A popular way to as a gloss, matt or soft touch finish to a box or header card, the laminate is as it suggests a plastic film glued to the face of the card or paper. Is it recyclable? Not in general, it has to be stripped from the paper before the recycling process begins. Are there alternatives? Yes! We can print a varnish thanks to our unique Lightcure process that fulfils most of the criteria at a lower cost. There are biodegradable laminates out there, which even though at much higher costs do breakdown in sunlight, the problem being once in landfill they don’t see the sun…
  2. Foam inserts some of which can be recycled but certainly not all, are often glued into the o uter box, meaning they won’t be accepted in a recycling station unless separated. The default is to throw into landfill. In reality nearly everything can be held in place inside a box using card board inserts. We can often fit them onto the same sheets as the box which is more efficient and thus a more eco-friendly process. Plus all cardboard is 100% recyclable!
  3. Blister packs, depending on the plastic used can be recycled but have now become synonymous with material that is damaging to the planet and most notably wildlife. 


In essence all recyclability always depends on the packaging being separated and submitted for recycling, any plastic will originate from oil, which as the world knows, is a finite resource and it’s refinement has a negative impact on the environment.  We have to look to renewable resources, ones which don’t rely on consumers conscience to recycle. Cardboard is a sustainable material, forestry is growing and card can fulfil nearly every requirement – something to consider when deciding if you want to retail your products in a fully recyclable way.

Something which a growing community of consumers in the UK and Worldwide see as a valuable quality in items they purchase.