A Place For Plastic In Taxing Times: A Study Of Recycled Content Films

Following Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement in the budget of a £200 per tonne tax on plastics containing less than 30% recycled content, YPS have been examining the impact this may have on customers for current and future projects.

The most disappointing aspect of the tax for us is its blanket approach. Very little consideration has been given to the differing types of plastic that are available, of which there are many. Some highly recyclable plastics have been tax-bracketed with some totally non-recyclable plastics that meet the 30%+ recycled content marker. We know the value of fully recyclable plastics for achieving a closed loop economy and in the reduce, reuse, recycle strategy, so the favourable exemption for some non-recyclable plastics seems counter-intuitive. In recent years there has been a huge push by the government and the industry on producing plastics that can be widely recycled, over and above the push to create plastics containing recycled content. Therefore, the message delivered by this new tax is confusing. As users of plastic flexibles, how can you now decipher which solution is the best for your business?

The good news is that many shrink wrapping solutions from YPS can already meet the criteria for tax-free plastic packaging and recyclability. For some time we have been providing fully recyclable PE shrink films containing post-consumer waste (PCW) with 30%, 50% and 70% recycled content, suitable for many different industries. Other wrapping methods such as spiral wrapping, which uses stretch films, are as of yet unable to offer any recycled content films and as such are likely to fall foul of the new tax regulations when they come into force in April 2022.

Our fully recyclable PE films with 30%+ recycled content can also provide, using our co-extrusion technology, the following additional benefits:

  • Strength, durability and outstanding optics to give pack integrity and quality.

  • A reduced co2 impact of 20% compared to films without recycled content.

  • The ability to down-gauge thicknesses of film to reduce overall tonnage.

  • Enables lower running temperatures of machinery to reduce co2 impact.

Because YPS are ahead of the curve in providing market-leading recycled content films, we also have a wealth of experience introducing these materials into a vast range of industries, markets and production lines. As such YPS can implement tailored film changes quickly and efficiently into your business with minimal impact, with plenty of time to spare before the ‘Plastic Tax’ hits.

Recycled Content Films FAQ

Are you looking to adopt tax-exempt post-consumer waste films in your packaging, but concerned about their feasibility or implementation? Allay your worries by browsing our FAQ’s.

I already have a shrink wrapping machine; do I need to upgrade to a new one to run your 30%+ recycled content films?

Advancements in technology and automation are continual and our current range of shrink wrapping machines are the most efficient they have ever been, adapting well to any specification of plastic flexible you chose to run. However, our recycled content films can be successfully used on all types of wrapping machines regardless of age and across many different industries, from high-speed dairy lines to extra wide lines for products such as insulation panels. Each recycled content switch project presents its own unique challenges but YPS can mix the polythene blends to suit each application individually. This means that we can tailor the post-consumer waste solution exactly to your needs and to your existing machinery.

I’m looking to reduce my plastic consumption. Will the 30%+ recycled content films give me this opportunity compared to virgin materials?

The co-extruded formulation of the shrink film provides extra strength compared to standard lower grade virgin materials. This means that often our film experts are able to reduce the micron of film required in a wrapping operation by 5-10% and therefore the overall volume of plastic used. We have proven this time and time again with our portfolio of customers who have already switched to PCW films. In some cases, we have been able to reduce their plastic usage by up to 30,000kg per year. This not only represents a vast reduction in plastic consumption due to the reduced micron usage but reductions in longer-term running costs too.

How does the PCW film perform and will it have a negative impact on my production speed?

Our recycled content films have been manufactured to minimise any negative impact in wrapping performance. Following the uptake of post-consumer waste films by many of our customers, we are pleased to report that in fact we have seen improvements in many performance indicators, including speed. This is due to the co-extruded film technology resulting in a much higher grade product compared to standard mono-layer technology.

Will I achieve the same shrink and seal performance if I transition to post consumer-waste films?

The simple answer is yes, although there is an extremely complicated and technical reason why this is the case. The key point is that the seal and shrink layers are unaffected by the recycled content in the films. In order to provide the same quality and strength of seal that you are used to, the recycled content polymer layer is held in between the traditional seal and shrink layers and the shrink performance offers the same typical variables as mono-layer films.

What do the finished packs look like when using PCW films?

Typically, most customers won’t notice any difference between PCW films and 100% virgin films in terms of visual appearance. Furthermore, around 90% of the applications now using PCW films are wrapping packs for ‘back of store’ environments where aesthetics are of little importance. The film is removed prior to storefront display and can then re-enter the recycling stream. At YPS we feel that it is more pressing to achieve environmentally friendly aims than aesthetic ones by firstly providing these PCW films and then reducing tonnage where possible, all whilst maintaining performance.

I’m considering a stretch spiral wrapping alternative but I’m concerned about whether recycled content films are available?

Currently, PCW films are not available in any form of stretch alternatives. This is especially true of the lower gauge stretch films where it is very difficult to introduce post-consumer waste films because of the high-quality stretch requirements from machines such as spiral wrappers.

My packs are really heavy and have large voids in them, is the recycled content film strong enough to wrap them?

Our recycled content film range is certainly strong enough to handle large and heavy packs. Indeed with its three layer co-extruded material makeup, the strength capacity of these films actually outstrips that of most standard mono-layer shrink films.

Do you have any examples of projects that have successfully switched from virgin films to recycled content films?

Examples of applications from across our customer base that have managed to successfully uptake PCW films include:

  • Shower trays

  • Drinks

  • Insulation panels

  • Co-packing operations including packs of 6 coffee pots and 6 packs of beans

  • Doors

Are you interested in adopting recycled content films of 30%+ in your packaging operation? Talk to our friendly team today on 01484 715111 for more information or to request a sample.

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