Coding for Recyclability Requires New Codes of Conduct

  • By Domino Printing Sciences
  • September 29, 2023
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The move to more sustainable, recyclable, plastic packaging alternatives often requires adopting new ‘codes’ of conduct and can present unforeseen challenges for manufacturers. One of them is making sure that products can be effectively coded with product information, and traceability data. At Domino we are committed to developing coding solutions that support the move to more sustainable packaging materials: the introduction of UV laser technology to our printer portfolio is specifically targeted at applications using recyclable plastic materials.

U510 large field coding dairy

Recyclable plastics for a circular economy

Plastic packaging is everywhere – in fact, over 60% of all flexible packaging used in the EU is plastic, and this in unlikely to change any time soon.

Despite its bad reputation for creating pollution, plastic does have some undeniable benefits:

It’s lightweight, minimising carbon emissions from transport; it provides product protection, preservation, and quality assurance; it is also 60% more energy efficient to manufacture than materials such as paper and card; plus recycling plastic uses just 10% of the energy necessary to recycle paper.

But, with OECD estimates suggesting that only 9% of plastic waste is being recycled globally, there is clearly much room for improvement.

It’s all the more reason for the industry to redouble efforts and invest in flexible plastics that are suitable for recycling.

How does that impact coding and marking?

First, we’ll have to look at what makes plastic suitable for recycling: By using mono-materials (one single material) rather than layers of different plastics, which can be difficult to separate and therefore challenging to recycle. Secondly, anything that is added to the material, i.e. colour, glue, wrapper, etc. needs to either be easily removable or recyclable with the plastic material.

These two factors influence how codes can be applied: any alterations in packaging material composition can influence the adhesion of inks and the reaction to laser light. So moving to a mono material film, tray or cup, and using a different method to decorate packaging such as adding a paper wrapper or changing colouring methods, has a direct effect on the choice of printing technology used for applying traceability data.

This is the very reason why we have added a UV laser to our portfolio.

U510 white lid sample-blog

UV laser codes the change

Domino’s U510 UV laser coders are an ideal choice for recyclable, mono-layer, flexible plastics that are capable of creating indelible codes without adding additional inks or chemicals to the packaging material.

Utilising UV light the U510 produces brilliantly sharp and contrasting labels via a photochemical reaction on the very top layer of the substrate, with nearly zero stress on the material compared to other technologies, thus keeping barrier properties of films intact – this is specifically important when increasingly thinner films are used to save raw materials.

White and light-coloured plastic packaging containing titanium dioxide (TiO2), the most commonly used pigment for creating opacity, can be coded directly with the U510, without need for additional laser-activated fields.

For easy integration and retrofitting the U510 is designed as a compact all-in-one system, with the controller integrated into the laserhead. The system is IP55 protected to make it suitable for harsh production environments. For modern requirements needing more than a printer, connectivity via the Domino Cloud enables remote diagnostics and 24/7 visibility of the laser performance.

U510-coloured HDPE bottle sample
"We have added the U510 to Domino’s laser portfolio to be able to offer our customers the ideal solution to their needs and support changing to new packaging developments. Testing each application first enables us to provide the best solution for the individual requirement from our range of CO2, fibre and UV lasers." Felix Rief, Head of Laser and Extraction, Domino

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