Stéphane Royère, Head of Business Area Print & Packaging at Kurz, gives Luxe Packaging Insight the lowdown on RECOSYS, the German film specialist’s transfer recycling initiative for its PET carrier, launched last year.
What is at the origin of this project?
Kurz has been working on a solution to recycle its PET carrier for around 10 years now as once the converter uses our film (after hot-stamping, for example) they are left with partially decorated film. This waste can be reused to make materials such as asphalt, for example, but this is far from the best recycling solution for the industry. Given that the cost of getting rid of waste continues to increase, it was important that we devise a solution that would be as “closed loop” as possible. And so our idea was to collect these partially used rolls of film and transform them into something new, which resulted in our transfer recycling program, RECOSYS.
How does RECOSYS work?
Once our customers have used the foil, they scan the bar code on the roll via our custom-made app, which alerts our transporter that a palette of foil is ready for pick up. It is sent back to our factory and the recycling process begins. We built our first recycling plant just across the road from our existing factory in Germany.
How do you account for the environmental impact of shipping the films to the recycling site?
Currently our program is available in a 1,000km radius from our plant near Nuremberg, so we’re mainly targeting our German customers and those from surrounding countries today. The long-term goal is for Kurz to operate a recycling site alongside all of our factories on different continents, but we’re also exploring the option of building recycling sites closer to our clients’ manufacturing centers as well.
What becomes of the recycled foil?
Basically we take the rolls of used metallized polyester, cut them into small pieces and put them through a process that produces a high-quality plastic injection material. This material, which we call RECOPOUND, is therefore made of polyester and its different layers. In terms of finished products, we’ve succeeded in making rather complex shapes with the new material for components in the automotive industry, while other clients have adopted the material for design objects, so there is quite a bit of potential there.
How much does RECOSYS cost for your customers?
There are different calculation schemes, but generally we are asking the converter to share a portion of the costs. This is a major investment for Kurz, but it’s not one that is meant to be profitable — the goal is to make our products and processes as sustainable as possible.
What is the pipeline for the evolution of RECOSYS?
Perhaps the most important message here is that we are now in the initial stage of development. Not all of our products can be recycled at the moment, so far just our sheet-fed cold transfer films. Hot-stamping will be the next to join the program and recycling holographic products is also in the works. The best-case scenario would be to transform PET foil into equally qualitative PET foil, but we aren’t there yet.
This is the first step in what we hope will eventually be a totally closed loop process; we’re giving a second life to a product that is helping our clients lower their environmental impact, but there are more innovations to come.