Packaging materials also en route to circularity

Climate-neutral products, from raw materials to the end of their life cycle: that is the mission of the entire group.

29 March 2023

Climate-neutral products, from raw materials to the end of their life cycle: that is the mission of the entire group. A concrete application of this ambition is the project that will see Unilin Insulation using only circular packagings as of 2025. The Utherm insulation boards are already being packed with packaging material that is 35% recycled as well as fully recyclable after use. 

This is a major leap forward: the new packaging material saves 650 tonnes of CO2 per year. The new transparent film can be fully recycled again locally, which fits perfectly with the ambitions of the circular economy. It is the perfect way to minimise the impact of the production process: waste is recycled locally, with minimal impact on the waste mountain.

How the quest for the sustainable packaging film started

It started with a meeting with Valipac, the company that collects and recycles plastic waste from construction sites. “The white film we used protected the insulation boards but it was difficult to recycle”, Aster Onderbeke explains. As an engineer for Unilin Insulation Aster looks for sustainable solutions. “That packaging film could only be reused for refuse bags, which isn’t very sustainable.”
He decided not to waste time and immediately set to work with the purchase department. “We went in search of an alternative that is not only easier to recycle after use than our white packaging film but that consisted as much as possible of recycled material. We contacted several suppliers and just a few weeks later we were conducting the initial tests with transparent packaging film on the shop floor.”

Small adjustments, important efforts

The tests went smoother than anticipated, says Kensey Soetens, who is in charge of packagings at the machines. “At first it’s a bit of a search to find the right settings and values. Even though we used the same plastic thickness as with the white packaging film, we still had to make some adjustments to the machines. For instance, due to the different composition of the new packaging film the edges must be welded shut in a different way. Fortunately it didn’t take long to get it just right.”
“I think it’s a very good thing that Unilin takes account of these things”, Aster concludes. “We have a responsibility as a company and we take it seriously. This adjustment was no trouble at all but even these minimal efforts are important.”

Reduced loss and improved quality

Kensey sees additional benefits. “The white plastic often sticks to the top of the oven. After a while hard droplets start to form, like stalactites in a cave. In turn this can lead to tears. The new packaging film doesn’t have that problem so there is less loss.”
In other words, the new packaging film creates a win-win situation: both for our customers and for the environment there are nothing but benefits. And that brings us yet another step closer to completing our mission of creating a climate-neutral production process.