Glossary & Regulations
Biobased plastics are made of materials derived from biomass (plants, e.g. corn, sugarcane, starch
etc.). They can be either biodegradable or non-biodegradable, the term ‘biobased’ only indicates the source of the material.
Biodegradable plastics break down under very specific conditions within a defined period of time. The material decomposes by microorganisms into water, carbon dioxide, methane and sometimes biomass. Biodegradable material can be either biobased or made of fossil fuels, the term ‘biodegradable’ only indicates the end-of-life of the material.
Compostable plastics come from renewable materials and break down through composting. Compostable plastics are made from polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is made from dextrose, a sugar produced by plants. Currently, the most common raw material for PLA is field corn, although other plant sources may be used in the future. Compostable plastics are the best choice for foodservice ware that will have food residue. For example teabags or coffee pads.
The collection, sorting and (mechanical) reprocessing of used materials into new products.
Recycled plastic suitable for use in new products.
Mechanical recycling is the process of recovering plastic waste by mechanical processes such as sorting, washing, drying, grinding, re-granulating and compounding. Mechanical recycling does not change the chemical structure of the material, which permits multiple re-use/recycling of polymeric materials.
Chemical recycling is a range of emerging technologies in the waste management industry which allow plastics to be recycled, that are difficult or uneconomic to recycle mechanically. By turning plastic waste back into base chemicals and chemical feedstocks, chemical recycling processes have the potential to dramatically improve recycling rates and divert plastic waste from landfill or incineration.
Being recyclable means that, in theory, the material of the package can be used in the production of new products. However, for a package to be actually recycled, it must be correctly disposed, collected, sorted and recycled.
Design for recyclability
Design for recycling means that care is taken during a packaging’s design and development process to ensure the packaging is suitable for recycling after being used or reused. Factors like closures, labels, glues and ink may hinder the recycling process or influence the quality of the recyclate.
EU goal for 2050 is a circular economy. That means a system in which products and materials flow in cycles without loss in quality or quantity. A circular economy aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times.
Carbon black is a black colorant for plastics, usually found in darker colours because it is cheap and has a very deep colour. The carbon black colorant absorbs near infra-red (light) used for material detection in recycling process. Due to the absorption of the light, packaging with carbon black cannot be detected and will not be recycled.
Carbon black free
Carbon-free pigments enable full detectability of black (and other dark coloured plastics). This means that black plastics are being recycled and not incinerated. Carbon-free pigments enable full-detectability of black and dark coloured plastics on recycling sorting machines.
Treatment of materials and products after disposal. For packaging, materials can be reused, recycled, incinerated or dumped as landfill.
Life cycle thinking
An approach that goes beyond only considering environmental impacts during production of products. It considers the impacts of all life cycle phases. Life cycles phases typically consist of: raw material sourcing, production, distribution, usage and end-of-life.
- UN Sustainable Development Goals
- Paris Agreement on climate change
- Basel Convention
- New Plastic Economy
- European Strategy for plastics in a circular economy
- Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation
- Plastic Pacts (UK, FR, NL)
- German Packaging Act (Verpack G)
- Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) UK
- AGEC – FR
EU plastic bag directive
Set: UN Sustainability goals
Set: Paris Action on Climate Change
Set: New Plastic Economy (NPE)
Chinese ban on plastic waste imports
Set: European Strategy for Plastics
Set: Plastic Pacts (NL, UK, FR)
German Packaging Act (Verpack G)
UN export restrictions on hard-to-recycle plastics
Tarief differentiatie (NL)
EU Waste Framework Directive
EU – tax on non-recycled plastic packaging waste (0.80€/kg)
July: EU – Single use plastics & oxo-degradable ban
Plastic Packaging Tax UK except: at least 30% recycled material content
Spain – tax on non-reusable plastic packaging (0.45€/kg) except: recycled material content
Italy: new labelling requirements for all packaging
France: new rules recyclables / AGEC
Italy – tax on non-recyclable plastic packaging (0.45€/kg), except: recycled material content, compostable material
France: households to compost their own food-waste
France: ban on polystyrene material
Belgium: digital deposit system on plastic drinking bottles and aluminum cans
UK: 100% plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable
EU: deposit & return system for drinking bottles and cans
EU – 90% collection rate for single use beverage bottles
EU: minimum recycled content target (contact sensitive packaging) PET 30% / PE & PP 10%
EU: circular economy
Due to the rapid evolution of the sustainability into the packaging sector as well as local differences of recycling processes and law, information provided within this document are for information only.
We advise you to check your local regulation’s update.