Label papers and recycling - is there a value?

March 28, 2012Marko Haveri


UPM is the leading recycler in graphic papers with the annual recovered paper purchase of ca. 3,5 – 4,0 million tons. It is a huge amount of “waste”, consisting mainly of old newspapers and magazines and representing actually more than one third of our total fibre needs in papermaking. From the individual sourcing items it is definitely one of the biggest among the wood and chemical pulp from the volume and value points of view.
The strategic importance of recovered papers is certainly high, especially in our newsprint and magazine businesses. We are also more and more active in the use of recycled fibres in our fine papers such as copy. In general the recycling of “office waste” or “wood-free papers” is far behind from the recycling rates of newspapers and magazines due to many reasons.
Release paper has various colour shades.

How about label papers and recycling? It is one of our core paper businesses and very important raw material to our labelstock business in UPM Raflatac. Is there a need for that, or value?
We need to protect the position of self-adhesive label value chain and of course, our leading position in paper based labels. There are certainly many ways to do it, but the one is definitely to promote the recycling of release liner. We are talking about a potential collection volumes of n. 300 000 tons in Europe, which is clearly lower compared to our current recovered paper volumes. 
Why then we should protect ourselves? Legislation and other regulations support the use of recyclable materials, which can lead to additional taxes and bans of the non-recyclable materials. Secondly, there are a number of competing labelling technologies trying to capture the market share from our self-adhesive label technology. This is the reason why our recycling concept is needed.
And after some dark clouds the good news! Based on our recent developments we have now the solution! But first, let’s remember how our understanding was in the past…

The recyclability of release papers

 has now been proven through
technical trials and it seems to be

 a perfect fit and complement to

 Plattling’s current raw material mix.

Marko Haveri,
Portfolio Manager,

Fine and Speciality Papers, UPM
We had all believed that release papers couldn’t be recycled back to paper due to the fact that it is a very strong and dense paper, has low opacity and the main colour shade is yellow. Extremely different to the typical recovered paper used by UPM. The silicone coating of release paper later on in the value chain did not help either - this has actually been one of the main concerns for recyclers when even thinking about recycling.
The last but definitely not the least issue relates to liner waste collection, which has been thought to be challenging, at least on a large scale, because the volumes consist of thousands of small streams and there is always an easier solution to the label end user who "generates" the siliconized liner waste: Incineration.
What is our solution then?
The Plattling mill has a recycling plant which is capable of handling the liner waste regardless of its special characteristics. It has now been proven through technical trials and it seems to be a perfect fit and complement to Plattling’s current raw material mix.
UPM’s Plattling Paper Mill, Bavaria, Germany.

The raw material to this plant is sourced by our recovered paper organisation and their troops in different markets. Release liner waste is simply a new sourcing stream to be developed. As waste volumes are split across small streams over several markets, we need to use external partners for practical collection work and logistics. To reach those multiple locations – label end users and other sources – the co-operation with the whole labeling value chain is needed.
So all in all, the success of this project is based on co-operation between different businesses and functions (achieve together), open mindset (renew with courage) and trust that this will work and people carry their responsibility (trust and be trusted). Things can really change if we want so, regardless of what is felt to be the absolute truth. This is for me the Biofore company in action.

Marko Haveri
Portfolio Manager, Fine and Speciality Papers, UPM
The release paper recycling concept in Plattling complements UPM Raflatac’s existing RafCycle® waste management concept, which aims for sustainable recycling solutions for the whole self-adhesive labelstock value chain. Through RafCycle, labelstock waste from laminating, slitting, printing, and dispensing finds a new life as UPM ProFi wood-plastic composite products, energy, and now UPM paper products as well.

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