Recycling management pioneer and cosmetics group cooperate

9 Jul 2020 - Mainz - Company-News

Beiersdorf and Werner & Mertz developed a standard concept for cosmetic packaging made of old plastic with the support of Fraunhofer IVV

It is a big step for the recycling economy and the cosmetics industry: the founding company of the German “recycling forum” Werner & Mertz and the global skin care company Beiersdorf have entered a cooperation. Together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV), they have developed a standard for the use of mechanically recycled waste plastic, which is obtained from the German “Grüner Punkt” waste collection system, for cosmetics packaging. It is a first guidance and important orientation for the industry.

Challenges with recycled material use in cosmetics packaging

So far, there is a high uncertainty in the cosmetics market, both among manufacturers and recycling companies, about the use of so-called post-consumer recyclates (PCR) in cosmetics packaging. Generally, the Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 on cosmetic products stipulates that manufacturers should of course only put safe products into circulation. It does not define under which conditions recycled material may be used – hence, the uncertainty as to whether and in what form recycled material does meet the safety criteria.

Today it is possible to manufacture high-quality cosmetic packaging such as shower gel bottles from used plastic. Backed by the new Fraunhofer analysis, Beiersdorf and Werner & Mertz encourages others in their industry to use recyclates. Copyright Photo: Werner & Mertz

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Werner & Mertz had been driving the development of HDPE treatment processes in a long-term project with partners and demonstrated that the safe use of recycled HDPE is possible for so-called rinse-off products - products used for body cleansing.

As the market leader in skin care with the well-known NIVEA and Eucerin brands, Beiersdorf recently set ambitious targets for the recyclability of its packaging and launched the first products with bottles made from recycled plastic. "In our efforts to further increase the proportion of recycled material in our plastic packaging, we as a manufacturer face the challenge that suppliers are insufficiently prepared for our material requirements. It quickly became clear that we had to provide support in the development of high-quality recyclates, especially in defining quality requirements. Werner & Mertz had already done excellent preparatory work in this area. Together we developed the idea further and set the basis for a cosmetics standard," explains Michael Becker, Head of Global Packaging Development, Beiersdorf AG.

Clear recommendations for the use of recycled material

In order to provide to the industry some guidance and increase clarity on the usage of recycled plastic in cosmetics packaging, Werner & Mertz and Beiersdorf, in cooperation with Dr. Frank Welle from the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging, have drawn up an inventory of existing recyclates on the European market. This provides an initial transparency of the existing recycling processes, of the available qualities and of the material properties. By comparing these data with the requirements for cosmetic packaging, it was possible for the first time to define a standard that answers the most important questions to help recycling companies and manufacturers. Recyclers learn how the quality situation is evaluated from the cosmetics industry's point of view and receive information on how high-quality processing of used plastic can be successful and what quality is required to meet the industry's requirements.

According to the findings of the study, the manufacturers of cosmetic products should aim to design plastic packaging in a way that it consists of high-quality material that can be recycled. The idea of recyclability should be taken into account also in the design of the packaging: for example, by using mono-materials instead of mixed materials, sustainable printing inks, removable labels as well as easy to detach packaging components to allow separation during the recycling process.

The results of the analysis will be published by the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging at the beginning of autumn 2020.

More use of recycled material = more environmental and climate protection

"With our joint work, we have proven that mechanical recycling is a viable route for high-quality secondary plastic materials. Our findings are forward-looking and intended to give all players more security. If many companies follow our example, demand will be increased, which will accelerate investments in processing plants and make the repeated use of plastic waste more economical. This then benefits not only the companies, but protects our environment. In Beiersdorf we have found a strong cooperation partner who shares our vision of an industry-wide use of recycled material," says Immo Sander, Head of Packaging Development, Werner & Mertz.

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