UPM Raflatac makes further progress towards New Plastics Economy Global Commitment

UPM Raflatac has made further progress towards a more circular economy for plastics and a future beyond fossils. This is detailed in the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment 2022 Progress Report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). UPM Raflatac joined the Global Commitment as the first label materials company in October 2018.

‘As a company committed to labelling a smarter future beyond fossils, we are glad to participate in the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment Progress Report. As a supplier in the packaging value chain, this presents an opportunity to transparently showcase the actions we have taken to provide solutions for brands and designers as they aim for more circular packaging,’ says Robert Taylor, Sustainability Director at UPM Raflatac.

The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment Progress Report provides transparency on how major businesses are addressing the plastic pollution crisis. According to this year’s report, the target of 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging will almost certainly be missed by most organisations. Not meeting all 2025 targets reinforces the urgency for businesses to accelerate action, particularly around reuse, flexible packaging and decoupling business growth from packaging use. Businesses need to exponentially increase the use of recycled plastics and reduce total plastic packaging use to accelerate progress on the virgin plastic reduction target.

‘This year’s report clearly shows the need for the industry to accelerate the transition to the circular economy. For us, the report serves as a milepost giving guidance towards our targets set for 2025. Our role as a solutions provider is more crucial than ever, as we continue to deliver meaningful impact and concrete actions that the rest of the packaging industry can benefit from,’ says Ronja Dorairaju, Sustainability Specialist at UPM Raflatac. 

Turning label waste into a resource is a key component of enabling the circular economy

As highlighted in UPM Raflatac’s 2021 reporting, the number of RafCycle™ recycling service partnerships and PET liner recycling cases continued to increase. The company strengthened the development in internal capabilities of the RafCycle service through organisational, technical and logistical capabilities.

In addition, UPM Raflatac has continued to develop its SmartChoice™ and SmartCircle™ product ranges that enable smart, more sustainable and innovative label material choices. In 2021 the company’s unprinted SmartCircle™ PE labels with acrylic and hotmelt adhesive technologies received recognition from RecyClass. The granted approval proves SmartCircle PE can be recycled in the HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) coloured stream. 

Developing label materials with more recycled content

During 2021, UPM Raflatac launched 30% C-PCR PP materials and new FSC recycled paper materials. The PP material contains 30% chemically recycled post-consumer plastic (PCR). The FSC recycled face materials contain 100% recycled fibres and are a sustainable solution for primary food applications. The FSC recycled face materials are offered with recycled content glassine liner through the RafCycle™ recycling service – LabelLoop™ solution. The company also relaunched their Label Life LCA tool, adding a functionality to calculate the life cycle of Raflatac’s recycled content products and UPM Forest Film™ products.

In addition, UPM Raflatac was able to reduce film wrapping usage by up to 45% through their pallet optimisation project in the Polinyá and Scarborough terminals. This resulted in yearly carbon emissions reductions of 94 tons. These actions are part of the company’s Biofore site program which includes a scorecard for each factory with approximately 40 performance measures mapped to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Moving beyond fossils by developing alternative bio-based labelling solutions

During 2021, UPM Raflatac introduced a new PP Food/Biobased product, which uses 30% renewable content in its face material and a resource-optimised lighter construction for both reduced environmental impact and cost efficiency.

In addition, UPM Raflatac’s RAFNXT+ range continued to grow and at the end of the year it included over 100 RAFNXT+ products. Notable additions in the RAFNXT+ range were two adhesives, RH9F and RH9L, which are made with around 50% forest-based materials that replace fossil-based materials. The company also introduced the world’s first label materials certified as CarbonNeutral® by Climate Impact Partners for selected RAFNXT+ materials.