octobre 28, 2020

The differences between Recyclable Vs Recycled

Difference between recyclable and recycled !


​​The questions from customers about the recyclability are increasing due to the upcoming EU tax in 2021, for non-recycled plastic packaging material. With this Grip on Green, we want to give you necessary input to support you answering customer questions.

We received the following questions from sales colleagues & customers:

1. Which cap material is better for glass jars – plastic or metal ? 

During the sorting process of glass, metal caps are better to separate from the glass than plastic caps. So, for recycling it’s better to choose metal caps.

2. Are black coloured products simply not recyclable?

The common black colour contains Carbon black (CB). During recycling, this CB-colour can’t be detected by the sorting sensor and therefore can’t be sorted correctly for further processing. Sorting is the first step of the recycling process. If the detection fails, recycling isn’t possible.

(For more details, please read Grip on Green #11)  

For example a CB-black coloured HPDE container can’t be detected and will be rejected for incineration or landfill.

There are black colourants without Carbon black pigment, so called Carbon black free (CBF) colours. They can be detected, sorted and further recycled. We are currently working on implementation of this CBF-black colours to our portfolio.

3. Are coloured and opaque PET packaging not recyclable?

Usually they are recyclable, but not recycled. Please find the difference of these two words in the answer of the question below. Technically, coloured PET is recyclable. But because there is no demand on already coloured rPET, no sales market exists for this recycled material yet and that’s why it’s usually not recycled. Once the demand on this kind of material grows, it could be that it will be recycled in the future.

In Austria for example, there is one of the first recyclers, who recycle opaque PET. It seems, that the change already starts…

4. What is the difference between recyclable and recycled?

The recyclability of a product needs to be evaluated for the entire package. This includes all packaging components like container, caps and closures, liners, labels, sleeves, printed ink etc. which will be disposed together. It’s necessary to choose compatible components fit for recycling.


Recyclable are products, which are able to process in common recycling systems without be rejected or causing contaminations of recycling streams. The aim is, that they will end up being recycled (raw) material, which can be used for new applications or products.

Therefore, some points are relevant:

– It’s necessary, that the packaging is sorted correctly – e.g. PET in PET stream, PE in PE stream.

– An appropriate stream needs to exist to enable recycling – e.g. PLA isn’t recycled, because there is no stream existing.

– The materials needs to be as pure as possible to avoid contaminations – e.g. no unintentionally material mixtures like metal in PET stream. Or using water soluble glues for labels to avoid any effects on quality of the resulting recycled material due to the glue.


We can only design a packaging fit for recycling for the common recycling system. If a packaging is recycled in the end, can’t be said with certainty. It depends for example, if a recycling stream exists. This decision is made by national waste management authorities who decide if a packaging material is further processed or not.

Relevant points for them to decide if a recycling stream will be implemented are:

– Is there enough amount of material to recycle it economically?

– Do we have the technical possibility to recycle the material?

– Is there an existing demand/ sales market on the recycled material?

An example therefore is the recycling of coloured or opaque PET packaging as described in the question above.

En raison de l’évolution rapide de la durabilité dans le secteur de l’emballage ainsi que des différences locales des processus de recyclage et de la loi, les informations fournies dans ce document sont fournies à titre indicatif uniquement.Nous vous conseillons de vérifier votre réglementation locale.