UPM Raflatac looks to recycled ocean-bound plastic for new label line

UPM Raflatac in Dixon has set climate goals striving toward becoming the first label materials company to go beyond fossil resources.

DIXON – UPM Raflatac announced it is the first company investing in a certain plastic waste for labeling, repurposing the stuff that might otherwise end up polluting the ocean.

The global labeling company, which has a factory in Dixon, said it was investing in recycled ocean-bound plastics, or OBPs, in the company’s new Ocean Action labels.

The Ocean Action labels are made from ocean-bound plastic, which is abandoned plastic waste recovered from areas up to 31 miles inland from waterways. It is defined as being “at risk of ending up in the ocean” by OBPCert.

“The new innovative Ocean Action label material is the latest step in our beyond fossils journey. It not only help prevent the plastic waste from ending up in the oceans but also offers brand owners the possibility to meet their recycled content targets for packaging,” said Eliisa Laurikainen, Business Development Manager from UPM Raflatac. “The Ocean Action label material is an easy-to-use, drop-in solution created especially for food and cosmetics end-uses, as it has exactly the same performance as the current fossil-based labels.”

The United Nations has recognized the need to recycle more post-consumer plastic and launched a new plastic pollution treaty in 2021.

OBPCert has estimated that ocean bound plastic generates 80% of plastic marine litter.

Currently, only about 10% of plastic waste gets recycled on a global basis. The rest ends up at landfills, in incineration, and as leakage to nature or oceans.

“The world desperately needs more sustainable and commercially viable ways to recycle post-consumer plastic,” according to a company news release.

The label materials can apply to household goods, personal care, packaged foods and beverages.

UPM Raflatac has collaborated closely with multiple partners in the value chain.

At first stage, HHI, a Malaysian-based plastic recycling company, collects and sorts the ocean-bound plastic waste with its partners. HHI is certified under the Zero Plastic Oceans program, which ensures the responsible sourcing, proper collection and management of the ocean-bound plastic waste.

After collecting and sorting the ocean-bound plastic waste, HHI uses chemical recycling to convert the waste into pyrolysis oil. The pyrolysis oil is then used by chemical manufacturing company SABIC to create high-quality PP plastic granulates.

“We are proud to offer our customers another more sustainable choice through the advanced recycling of used plastic that could otherwise end up in our oceans and rivers,” said Lada Kurelec, a general manager at SABIC. “These labels containing ocean bound plastic connect with our Trucircle program of circular solutions designed to help reduce plastic waste, mitigate fossil depletion and protect our planet.”

After SABIC, the plastic granulates are used in a process by which manufacturer Taghleef Industries makes a film. And from that, UPM Raflatac makes the labels.

“We are proud to be part of this initiative that represents a further step towards a more circular economy, thanks to an efficient reuse of valuable material, and is a responsible effort to preserve our environment, especially for younger generations,” said Simone Baldin, Business Unit Manager of Labels Europe at Taghleef Industries.

The label material is produced using sustainable recycled feedstock, replacing the equivalent amount of virgin fossil resources used in the production process, the release said. By using a mass balance approach, accounting for the amount of sustainable resources, these verify that the Ocean Action label material is traceable and sustainably sourced.

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers joined Sauk Valley Media in 2016 covering local government in Dixon and Lee County.