Verstraete IML signs the New Plastics Economy’s Global Commitment

12 December 2018
Verstraete IML Sustainability

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation announced its new Global Commitment, ‘A line in the sand’, at the ‘Our Ocean Conference’ in Bali on 29 October 2018. The objective: eliminating plastic waste and pollution right at the source. Over 290 leading organizations from around the world are committing to these ambitious objectives. Verstraete IML is also committed and will be taking the lead in sustainability efforts.

Innovation at the forefront
Verstraete IML was one of the first to commit to the New Plastics Economy initiative launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a British NGO, in 2016. It was a logical decision for the market leader in in-mold labeling, for which sustainability is the major leitmotif. Koen Verstraete, Managing Director: “Innovation is in our DNA. To both develop high-tech products for our customers and create environmentally friendly solutions that contribute to a sustainable economy.”

Perfectly recyclable IML packaging
Verstraete IML produces over 50 million in-mold labels daily for the plastic packaging industry. Nico Van de Walle, Product Manager: “Plastic is strong, lightweight, and hygienic. It’s also easy to reuse and recycle. Moreover, the packaging and the IML are made from the same material, which makes it mono-material packaging, meaning it is perfectly recyclable.”

The buck stops here
Trying to clean up all the plastic in the oceans is fighting a losing battle, unless the problem is dealt with right at the source. That’s why the New Plastics Economy draws a clear line in the sand. Companies, governments and organizations must create an unambiguous vision on the circular economy. They must also join forces to bring a stop to plastic pollution.
The New Plastics Economy targets three objectives:
1. Elimination of problematic or superfluous plastic packaging and transitioning from disposables to reusables
2. Innovation so that 100% of the plastic packaging can be safely and easily reused, recycled, or composted by 2025
3. Circulation of manufactured packaging through the significant increase in the amount of plastic that is reused or recycled and the creation of new packaging or products

Environmentally friendly actions throughout the entire chain
Verstraete IML strongly believes in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s – literal and figurative – cross-border approach. That is why the company is actively participating in the Holy Grail pilot project to create more value in the waste flow. It does this, for example, by applying digital watermarks to the IML and packaging in order to better sort the waste. In addition, Verstraete IML has been making major, long-term efforts to write a truly sustainable story. Nico Van de Walle: “Our spin-off company Plastic Recycling Verstraete (PRV) converts 4,500 tons of polypropylene waste into the new basic raw material, PP pellets, annually. We’re making major cuts in our energy consumption. And we take the environmental impact into account as much as possible when buying raw materials and in our production processes.”

Joint responsibility
However, what Verstraete IML cannot guarantee is that consumers will sort and recycle packaging properly. And that the packaging will arrive in the right place at the waste processing companies. And yet, the company accepts responsibility at that level as well. Nico Van de Walle: “We must make it as easy as possible for the consumer to sort waste. That’s precisely why we’re such big proponents of a single bag for all plastic waste, which is then processed in smarter sorting systems.  To do this, we’re working together with several other leading companies throughout the entire supply chain.”
Verstraete IML also helps develop packaging based on renewable, organic raw materials and is conducting research into the biodegradability of in-mold labels so as to close the loop. It also launches products on the market that increase the chances for reuse, like Peelable IML or Reverse IML. Once the consumer removes the Peelable IML from the packaging, all that is left is a neutral, perfectly reusable storage container. The durability of Reverse IML means that the packaging can be reused multiple times in a closed-loop system. For example, buckets for fresh frying oil can be reused to return the used frying oil.

IML packaging is already 100% recyclable. However, we are also working on solutions to further increase the quality and the value of this Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) IML material. Moreover, we are also conducting research on the use of PCR polypropylene material for the production of in-mold labels.

Measurability and transparency
Sustainability isn’t just some short-lived buzzword at Verstraete IML. Koen Verstraete: “The fact that we don’t go in for greenwashing is apparent from, among others, our commitment to the New Plastics Economy and our signing of the Global Commitment. Companies that actively support the initiative must achieve results and prove them. They do this by, among other things, publishing measurable data on specific achievements and progress made annually. Plus, we publish a sustainability report every three years, in which we explain our actions in detail.”

Pioneering positive change
With the Global Commitment, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation wants to create the ‘new normal’ for plastic packaging and implement changes from production onwards. This is because the majority of the packaging that ends up in the environment and the oceans escapes collection because it’s ‘worthless’. Plastic packaging with greater intrinsic value ends up where it should end up: in a circular system for reuse and recycling. Nico Van de Walle: “We always take the functional objectives, circularity, and final destination into account when designing all of our packaging. Because, as a manufacturer of in-mold labels, we are at the source and we can outline a positive course for the future. It’s a major responsibility that forms the basis for everything we do.”