Packages and closures for packaging

Thin line between ecology and utopia

Plastic recycling has been widely discussed for a long time now, but the topic has not been exhausted yet and there is a lot more to cover. We are still waiting for reasonable proposals that would address the problem of landfills, reprocessing questions and limiting the production of new plastic.
There is an idea to completely eliminate polymers from our lives. Can we then expect the return of concrete ships and wooden car dashboards? Will the paper food packaging eliminate the landfills or trees? Or maybe plastic could be ousted by glass? We are not sure though how our atmosphere would handle all this CO2 emission which is the by-product of transport.

3R+E is the equation which we should all remember by heart!
Our Polpack Packaging website regularly features texts on popular science. We not only discuss the entire technological process of the mechanical recycling, but also share tips on how to deal with daily waste, minimise it and how to breathe new life into old packaging.
It is no less and no more than the 3R rule – Reduce, Reuse Recycle. However, this approach needs to be underpinned by one essential element – education.
We are more than willing to educate people: since our company is one of the plastic elements suppliers, we bear great responsibility. Packaging accounts for 40% of all plastic waste. Other branches that use huge amounts of polymers are construction and automotive industries.
However, one should notice that the majority of the plastic packaging waste comes from the food industry. From these 40% only 7% is generated by the pharmaceutical industry, and 6% by the beauty branch.
When we compare bottles size and weight vs. closure size and weight, it turns out that closures account for a really minute portion of the mentioned plastic packaging waste.
A transparent 500 ml plastic bottle weighs approximately 40 grams, while the bottle closure – a pump (our standard offer product – D 312-01) together with a proper length tube weighs ca. 11 grams. In terms of weight it is then less than 1/3 bottle, not to mention the huge disproportion in volume.

Going a step further, we could advertently say that this waste is not ours… However, the planet is!
What do we do to treat it responsibly? We act on many levels. On the one hand, we use internal recycling in our factories, on the other hand, we try to use PCR in our closures. The problems that follow, non-existent for consumers or even beauty products manufacturers, are solved at the European Commission level. Their intricacies are studied by recyclers, biologists, environment protection officials, legislators and other experts. EU members receive directives which they have a hard time implementing. We can only operate within the imposed legal frames and responsibly offer products we personally would use.
We are concerned because we are familiar with physicochemical properties of polymers and we know from experience that water bottles may be used for solvents, which permanently destroy them. However, according to the directives, such bottles would end up with food packaging waste. Unfortunately, we can be almost 100% certain that such plastic would be chemically contaminated.
The polymer particle chains may be broken down by heat, cold or mechanical damage. Single particles or atoms may uncontrollably attach to free bonds and contaminate polymer chains, thereby disrupting their original properties. It means the regranulate is short of the original quality which may affect the products that contain it.
Hence, it is uncertain whether changes on the molecular level may affect results of the migration testing which control medium contamination or presence of heavy metals. It is important to exhaustively test regranulate dedicated to sensitive sectors. It is a task for recycling companies with permits to process plastic for food and cosmetic branches.

Regranulate? Yes, but…
Our customers often ask us whether it is possible to make closures from regranulate, and we answer: “Yes, but…”. Why the “but”? For this moment there are very few factories in Europe that have been allowed by the European Food Safety Authority to use recyclates in food contact packaging and naturally, cosmetics. Such companies recover recyclates from their own packaging that they collect from their customers. They control the level of the damage and permanent staining, sort elements which are unfit for recycling and process waste accepted by the internal quality controllers. The recovered regranulate, which meets the requirements regarding the global migration or absence of heavy metals, is used in the same products with the same parameters.
In our case it would be basically impossible and surely ecologically illogical if we expected our customers to return our closures. Even though these elements are small, the carbon print left in the transportation would be huge. In terms of sustainability the losses would definitely outweigh the profits. For these reasons, we advise to throw our closures to yellow bins or use them for other purposes.

We recommend using PCR in elements which do not come in contact with the contents of the packaging, but… Here we go again, it is not so simple.
Regranulate may diminish the plastic’s durability. It is all up to the PCR quality, recovery method, concentrating it in a particular element, and the recycling cycle. It is estimated that plastic may be recycled eight times – later the polymers lose their primary properties and even if we add a small portion, they can still weaken the final product. Unfortunately, it is impossible to control the number of recycling cycles particular waste has been subjected to.
What proportions should be maintained between new and recovered material? 30% regranulate, 70% new plastic. For most products it is a safe proportion which will not impact the quality nor the functionality, and at the same time will save virgin plastic.

Virgin plastic, longstanding quality
However, we recommend using 100% new plastic. Are we anti-eco? Do we not care about our planet’s shape or recent trends?
Quite the opposite!
What do we gain by using virgin plastic? Stable, replicable and certified product whose all elements can safely come in contact with food or cosmetics, and will surely serve long time. Our quality control department makes all efforts to ensure our closures are absolutely reliable and appropriate not only for the primarily dedicated bottles, but also for other purposes. If a consumer decides to refill the bottle with a product – either in a drugstore or from a stand-up pouch (doypack), we guarantee that our closure will still be fully functionable and fault-free. In other case the idea of refilling would not make any sense.


For years now, we have been calling the cosmetics and detergents manufacturers to spare some place on their labels and include fraction that the empty packaging should be thrown to. We are glad to see it is becoming an increasingly common practice.
Even if we, as a beauty branch company, cannot take full advantage of the benefits of recycling, in other industry sectors it works perfectly. Construction or automotive branches successfully use recyclates in their products, which are not as thin and microdefects do not reduce their overall quality. These elements do not undergo migration testing, while presence of heavy metals in a, for instance, engine housing, does not impact its functionality.

Long live the EDUCATION!
Education must be based on reliable information. The most important fact is that we will not eliminate plastic from our life.
We will definitely not start building cars from 100% metal. For years now, the automotive industry companies have been focusing on car weight reduction, which equals improved fuel efficiency and lower emissions.  
Furthermore, nobody aspires to go back to 19th century shipping solutions and start building concrete ships.
Attempts to replace plastic packaging with paper also may prove ecologically disastrous. Our forest stand is being continually consumed by wildfires and logging for industrial purposes, so cutting more trees for paper would further hurt our oxygen suppliers.
While we immerse in such utopic theories, we should remember that production and recycling of paper also harm the planet. Transportation carries a very high carbon print, while the paper processing involves using a lot of water. Paper manufacturers do not share this information, but these numbers are huge!

Education on sensible approach to plastics must be informative and reliable, and we will definitely promote it. If it is impossible to completely eliminate plastic from our world, we have to know how to handle it in order to win the day.