Our raw materials

Of the selected materials that MACPAC use over 97% is exclusively RPET as this is the most recyclable and cost effective material available. The following is a breakdown of all the materials that we use.

RPET

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RPET is accepted to be the most recyclable of plastics in common use in the world today.
RPET is typically made up of a mixture of Post Consumer Recylate PCR and PIR Post Industrial Recyclate.

Macpac uses a blend with at least 80% recycled content which is made up of our own recylate which we granulate and return to our extrusion partners who use this to supplement the post consumer waste (Water bottles etc) to make up the material that we use over and over again.

RPET is made up of a sandwich structure, often called an ABA structure, that has a 10% layer on the top and bottom with the 80% in the centre body being made up exclusively of 100% RPET. The outer layers or A layers are virgin APET which satisfies BRC/IOP food standards under which we work on a daily basis whilst offering the best price and technical performance solution.

It is possible to get 100% RPET suitable for food applications, however, this requires more refinement during the recycling process and ultimately will be more expensive.

The BRC/IOP standard and our certification is available to view here.

How recyclable is RPET?

The recycling process is very efficient at preserving the longevity of the recyclate due to the nature of the process. RPET recyclate is crystallised before it is converted back into new RPET and it is this process which preserves its longevity.

Theoretical studies state that RPET can only be recycled 2-3 times or even less in some reports. However, this is not correct as the very nature of the extrusion process used in thermoforming preserves the life of material significantly. The importance of adding virgin A layers as described earlier is very important in contributing to the preservation of the RPET recyclate quality level in circulation. The addition of a small amount of virgin material is essential to extend the life of RPET recyclate indefinitely.

Why don’t we use 100% recycled material for everything?

It is possible to get 100% RPET suitable for food applications, however, this requires more refinement during the recycling process and ultimately will be more expensive.

If 100% recycled content is specified the ABA structure is still present because if it wasn’t there would be a loss of 20% output potential from the machines, the A layer also acts as carrier layer for deblock. If you were to apply the amount of internal deblock needed for de-stacking to a mono layer material it would both be costly and have detrimental effects on the clarity of the material.

So when we use 100% recycled content in our material the virgin A layer is swapped for PCR boosted food approved pellet which will do the same job as virgin but is currently around £400pmt more expensive.

ECOFORM RPET

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Ecoform RPET is a lower grade material than RPET yet it retains all the qualities of standard RPET and in some cases can have even better impact qualities.

RPET recyclate is graded by the level of impurities or other clear plastics that find their way into the mix. When they go through the extrusion process they produce a milky coloured material which is translucent. This can be good for applications where clarity is not an issue.

This is a very modern material which has been developed ready to feed the future closed loop recycling processes which are being developed nationally.

CARBON BLACK RPET

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Historically, carbon black RPET was a very efficient way of using up all the coloured RPET waste materials and adding a carbon black dye to create a very low cost and extremely efficient and functional material. This was extremely common until recently, however, the distinct disadvantage to carbon black RPET was that it was defined as non-detectable by recycling agencies as it was not detectable by NIR (Near-InfraRed) detection machines at their recycling plants. This means Carbon black RPET will now go to incineration or landfill rather than being recycled.

This material is now being actively phased out at MACPAC and, at year end 2020, usage had reduced to less than 3% of materials used. MACPAC is working to phase out this material totally by year end 2021.

DETECTABLE BLACK RPET

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Detectable Black RPET is typically made from a clear material with a black dye which has properties to enable it to be NIR detectable at recycling plants. This means that this material is now fully recyclable and is only a fraction more expensive than Carbon Black RPET.

Due to the nature of the dye, the colour is not as consistent as carbon black RPET which can be considered its disadvantage but we feel that is outweighed by the advantage of the material being recyclable therefore at Macpac we are actively encouraging our clients towards using this material as a replacement for carbon Black RPET.

JAZZ RPET

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The term JAZZ is a generic term used for non-specific coloured material which is offered as an alternative material where colour consistency is not crucial but offers a commercial saving over detectable Black RPET.
Typical uses would be industrial applications where functionality is more important than colour.

ANTI-STAT RPET

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This specially formulated material is tested to standard IEC61340-5-1 for static decay and surface resistance and is commonly used in applications for all types of computing and medical applications.

This material is still 100% recyclable.

BREAKDOWN PET

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Breakdown PET is a revolutionary new material which satisfies the packaging industry’s wish list in that it is made from recycled PET and unlike materials such as PLA is RECYCLABLE and FULLY BIODEGRADABLE.

  • When put in the general waste bin and ends up in landfill it will naturally decompose in less than a decade rather than centuries, leaving behind only organic matter, with no toxins or micro plastics remaining
  • When put in the recycling bin as the material is mainly our standard rPET with just a small amount of the breakdown additive in can be recycled with normal rPET
  • When put in the home compost bin the material completely decomposes as the bacteria found in home compost units are called ‘methanogens’ and these are not present within commercial compost facilities
    • Can’t go in industrial compost bin (collected at kerbside) because the conditions aren’t suitable for the additive to decompose
    • Breakdown PET uses an additive composed of organic compounds that attract microbes when placed into microbe rich environments.
      There are no enzymes or microbes within the additive.
    • Independent testing shows that biodegradation occurs on the entire polymer chain in Breakdown PET rather than just consuming the additive present in treated plastic.
    • ASTM biodegradation testing shows a much greater percentage of biodegradation as compared to the percentage load rate of additive, which proves that the plastic itself, not just the additive, is biodegrading.

POLYPROPYLENE

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In specific applications where products need to go into a freezer or need to be microwaved then Polypropylene becomes the most suitable material.

Polypropylene needs very specific handling through pre-heaters in production before it is formed and it cannot be formed into shapes with high definition.

At MACPAC we have suitable pre-heaters on our production lines.

HIPS

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HIPS is typically used in heavy duty industrial applications, for example, automotive trays for transiting components around a factory. The trays are mostly used over and over again and so conserve valuable resources by the fact that they are almost never disposed of after single use. In factory environments recycling is typically managed by commercial environmental businesses and so the trays should go to end of life being correctly recycled.

Most applications which have historically used HIPS are now moving to Ecoform RPET, and we are converting projects as they repeat. At year end 2020, HIPS usage had reduced to less than 3% of materials used. MACPAC is working to phase out this material totally by year end 2021.

SPECIALIST MATERIALS

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There are certain materials which are made up of multiple layers of different types of plastics. Such materials have been developed to enhance their ability to preserve the contents for much longer periods than would normally be possible with ‘standard’ RPET. 
 
A typical example would be a food tray, made from up to three different materials, to permit sealing under modified atmosphere to reduce the level of oxygen within the tray, this can allow the contents to be kept fresh for much longer periods which in turn greatly reduces food waste. 
 
A further example would be medical packaging where the specific contents need to be preserved or sterilised before being administered to a patient or used in an operating theatre. 
 
Such materials would normally be considered to be mixed plastics and therefore not recyclable. 
 
In such cases where there is a genuine benefit to using such materials, we would consider their use.

The GHG benefit of prevented food losses is (on average) at least 5 times higher than the burden of packaging production, if only 10% less of the packed food is wasted.

Source: The impact of plastic packaging on life cycle energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, July 2011. Authors: Bernd Brandt and Harald Pilz

The following gives an explanation of materials that we don’t use and why.

PVC

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Macpac does not use PVC in any applications as this material will contaminate RPET recycling streams.

INDUSTRIALLY COMPOSTABLE MATERIALS e.g. POLYLACTIC ACID (PLA)

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We have carried out extensive trials with PLA when this material first came into prominence around 2010. However, due to the fact that this material contaminates PET recycling stream and is extremely expensive we do not use this material.

Our R&D team is always looking into new materials which are in market development and will keep you updated of all breakthroughs as they develop.

Important points about ‘bio’ materials:

  • Although compostable plastics are biodegradable, not all biodegradable plastics are compostable. EU regulatory definitions for biodegradable materials exist (Dir2019/904), however the term ‘biodegradable’ is often misused and applied to a broad range of materials. Environments such as soil, fresh or marine water are uncontrolled, and therefore the timeframe for a material to biodegrade in them varies greatly. Without a specified environment or timeframe, the term ‘biodegradable’ can be misleading and is not an assurance that a material will biodegrade within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Compostable plastics are a subset of biodegradable plastics that are designed to break down under controlled environmental conditions into water, biomass, and gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. Environmental conditions effecting compostability include temperature, moisture level, pH, oxygen, and the microorganisms present. Duration of exposure under these conditions is a significant factor also.
  • The term ‘bioplastic’ is commonly used to describe bio-based plastics made using polymers derived from plant-based biomass, and plastics that are designed to biodegrade under certain conditions and in the presence of microorganisms. Not all bio-based plastics are biodegradable, and not all biodegradable plastics are bio-based. Although bioplastics can be engineered to biodegrade; equally, they can be made to function like conventional fossil-based plastics, which generally last much longer.

Bioplastics are defined both by what they are made of and what happens to them at the end of life:

  • Bioplastics that are organically recyclable
  • can be made entirely from non-renewable fossil fuel sources
  • can be made from a mix of fossil fuels and renewable sources e.g. plant-based.
  • can be made from totally renewable resources.
  • Oxo degradable plastics are NOT bioplastics.

Oxo-degradables are neither a bioplastic nor a biodegradable plastic, but rather a conventional plastic mixed with an additive in order to imitate biodegredation. Oxo-degradable plastics quickly fragment into smaller and smaller pieces, called microplastics, but don’t break down at the molecular or polymer level like biodegradable and compostable plastics. The resulting microplastics are left in the environment indefinitely until they eventually fully break down. The UK Government says it may introduce a ban on oxo-degradable plastics. Breakdown PET is not an Oxo-degradable!

 

PLA plastics are plant-derived plastics that are now used extensively in food packaging and often labelled as ‘biodegradable’, ‘compostable’ or ‘recyclable’ alternatives to typical polymers. While technically these materials may be any of the above, and thus they can be advertised as such, the specialised recycling services required are not always available to consumers.

Consequently, PLA plastics, which may state they are recyclable, often do not have a recovery pathway as the infrastructure is currently not well established for compostable plastics.

pla-disposal

  • When put in the general waste bin and ends up in landfill it doesn’t decompose so it is using up valuable space that is rapidly running out
  • When put in the industrial compost bin (collected at kerbside) this is the only way PLA will actually compost unfortunately UK industrial compost facilities are uncommon so this material rarely makes it to its responsible end of life destination
  • Can’t go in the recycling bin and the issue with disposing PLA plastic in the recycling bin is that it enters the regular plastics recycling stream is that it’s indistinguishable from PET plastic during flotation and density separations. The PLA plastics are combined with PET plastics, (think: Coke bottles), reducing the quality and resale value of the re-pelletised PET polymer.
  • Can’t go in the home compost bin as home compost doesn’t reach the temperatures that industrial compost facilities do, it has been shown to contaminate home compost by not fully decomposing
  • Compostable plastics are popular because they are made of renewable materials, but this is outweighed by the many negative aspects about its disposal and carbon footprint.

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