To Incinerate, or not to Incinerate!

To Incinerate, or not to Incinerate!

November 28, 2018

Production

The printing industry has always struggled with its waste, even with recent technological advances. Our facility here in Metro Vancouver produces both labels and packaging which have their own separate challenges. Labels themselves are constructed with layers of paper stock, inks, adhesives and laminates. Labels applied to packaging are usually removed through the recycling process and likely are incinerated or put in the landfill.

Packaging on the other hand (such as stand-up pouches) are constructed with multiple layers of plastics, inks, adhesives, lacquers and laminates. To add to the complexity of packaging, each layer of plastic can be a different substrate. This means the final construction turns the package into recycle number 7, which is not recyclable. At best, companies are chipping the material and creating pellets to sell as alternate fuel.

Technology

As a company in the Pacific North West, we struggle to keep our byproducts in a circular economy. We have heard of companies in Europe who have made flooring out of label and packaging waste. That said, it’s just not practical or environmentally sustainable to send our waste halfway around the world. Therefore, we look to the options available to us: Landfill or Incineration. Do we burry our waste which will break down slowly over a couple centuries; or do we burn our waste and create energy for homes which will break down over a couple of hours? Both options aren’t great, especially when considering the “allowable emissions” regulations set by governments for incineration.

Issues

The challenge is real, and just when you think you have found a solution, another issue emerges. This occurred when our team visited the incineration plant for a tour. When speaking with the crane operator, we discovered that our waste (which is sometimes on a roll) is too dense to breakdown and will actually roll off the conveyor belt. This means the extra transport time and dumping costs to the incinerator have been for the most part, a waste of resources. So our research department is back to the drawing board, all while thinking “To Incinerate or not to Incinerate!” That is the question… where is Shakespeare when you need him?

 

To look further into the incineration process click here

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