SUSTAINABILITY

SP Group’s commitment to caring for our planet is present in all our phases of production. We know that ensuring sustainability in packaging production is essential for guaranteeing more responsible consumption, which is why we have established a business model that benefits everyone.

Our sustainability strategy

We have adapted our production process to apply the three Rs of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Our goal is to cut down on excess plastic packaging, and to create new formats so that the materials we produce can be reused. This increases their service life, as they become high-value materials. We also add recycled material to some of our production lines to help boost the circular economy.

This new vision and approach allows us to reduce waste from materials produced during the extrusion process, and reuse post-industrial and post-consumer materials, thereby preventing them polluting the environment. In this way we are able to minimise the carbon footprint generated by packaging production.

Our values Towards a circular economy

In line with the European Commission’s action plan, SP Group adheres to the 54 actions to close the loop of product lifecycles. As a result, we are working hard to innovate efficiently in the plastics sector and guarantee the resource-product-recycled resource loop.

Why the commitment to sustainable transformation?

Some years ago, we asked ourselves what we could do to help protect our planet and the answer was clear: we needed to reduce our carbon footprint. We would commit to an R&D programme to create more environmentally sustainable materials and provide more innovative and responsible solutions for our clients.

INNOVATION Why innovation is needed for sustainable plastics production

In our aim to contribute to sustainability in the food packaging sector, at SP Group we have embarked on an improvement and innovation project for our machinery, our production processes and our method of sourcing new, more-recyclable materials. The project focuses on several research and development areas.

Biodegradable materials

We are promoting the use of renewable resources that allow us to produce packaging that is 100% biodegradable, compostable and biobased. These materials have to be broken down in specific facilities, such as industrial composting plants, which have the ideal conditions of temperature and humidity. In Spain it is currently quite difficult to sort these materials and break them down.

Recycled materials in the manufacturing process

We encourage the use of materials containing a high percentage of recycled plastic. This is why we have invested in machinery that not only allows industrial recycled material to be reincorporated but also post-consumer PET, which is certified food safe.

Recycling-friendly monomaterials

An excellent redesign process makes it possible to swap a multilayer structure for a monomaterial one. The use of a single polymer hugely increases the quality of the post-consumer recycled material obtained.

Carbon footprint reduction

The incorporation of post-industrial and post-consumer recycled material to PET structures has drastically reduced the carbon footprint of manufacturing plants using this process. We have also reduced the microns in many of our structures and eliminated the chlorine products.

Sustainability in the production process

For us, sustainability begins with our choice of suppliers and our research into new formulas that have less of an environmental impact from the production phase onwards:

  • Reducing the use of virgin material and increasing the amount of recovered and recycled material used in the manufacturing process.
  • Reformulation of materials to enable downgauging.
  • Use of monomaterial complexes, which facilitate recycling.

This is the case of PET packaging, which has become one of the most commonly used materials due to its versatility in the recycling process. 100% post-consumer packaging can be reincorporated into PET totally safely, and is even apt for food contact.

This material has also evolved and been downgauged, which means the waste resulting from production and the energy expenditure has also been reduced. The production process has become more efficient and sustainable as a result.

Advances in the recycling practices of recycling companies are allowing plastics transformation companies to provide highly relevant solutions, such as 360º projects that help foster the circular economy for some industrial waste products. At SP Group, we have introduced our Tray2Tray project. This sustainable project gives new life to waste from complex-film multilayer PET packaging produced by affiliated companies, and which SP Group collects for free.

One example of an advance made in the use of reused material is rPET. This is a new thermoformable monolayer PET film made entirely of post-consumer recycled plastic that guarantees the production of packaging that is 100% sustainable and food safe.

Types of recyclable plastics

Raw materials are important. The availability of plastics that are guaranteed to be prime materials for recycling is one of the key points of our advance towards sustainability sp.

We know that most of the plastic produced ends up polluting the planet in landfill and oceans, which is why we are focusing on several different ways to ensure a complete turn around towards structures that can be easily recycled or reused.

For consumers to be able to sort and separate their packaging correctly, they need to be able to identify the different types of plastic. This need led to the creation of identification codes for plastics. These are international symbols that help consumers learn more about the recyclability of different types of packaging and the materials used in them.

PET

This polymer is present in food trays and food packaging, fizzy drinks bottles and water bottles, mouthwash bottles and other bathroom products, as well as in the synthetic fibres used in clothes.

Recycling of this material so commonly used in the food sector began in 1998, coinciding with the boom in PET and the creation of the first Materials Recovery Facitlities. From that moment on, recycling plants in Spain continued to improve technologically to the point where they could recycle up to 300,000 tonnes (metric tons) per year.

Furthermore, due to the lightweight nature of PET, its energy balance and its recyclability, it has gradually replaced other more-polluting plastic materials, such as PS and PVC.

Low-density polyethylene

This type of plastic is used in the production of carrier bags, cling film, bubble wrap, cable covers and some bottle tops.

It is a thermoplastic with excellent heat and chemical resistance and can reach temperatures between 80-95°C, making it suitable for preserving food products.

It is the most-recycled plastic in Spain and is used as a raw material for new materials, such as plastic carrier bags, irrigation pipes and street furniture.

Polypropylene

This material is used in packaging that is suitable for microwave use, and for yoghurt pots, straws, butter and margerine pots, as well as crisp and snack packets.

Like PET, polypropylene (PP) is 100% recyclable and a significant amount of recycled plastic is obtained from it. It is tough and easy to mould, which means it is easy to give it a second life. Post-consumer, recycled polypropylene can be used for boxes, waste bins or furniture.

Plastic-recycling process

As part of our commitment to sustainability, we have integrated recycling into our production process. We choose materials that are highly recyclable, meaning that the polymers used in the production of packaging can be reused to produce others.

Thanks to PE- and PP-based materials, SP Group obtains plastic films that are 100% recyclable and we encourage the recycling of food and non-food packaging post-consumption, thereby fostering the circular economy promoted by the EU. There are three types of recycling methods that reduce our ecological footprint:

Mechanical recycling

Mechanical recycling process allows used plastic to be treated so that it can be reused in other packaging. An example is SP GROUP’s Tray2Tray project that is one of our initiatives to incorporate recycled material into the production of new raw materials. Using a compacting machine, clients can compact their waste before it is removed. After the waste has been processed, SP Group re-incorporates the recycled material as raw material for the production of new packaging. Traceability remains intact with this process.

Chemical recycling

Chemical recycling can be used to obtain new raw materials. The molecules in the polymers are broken down into monomers that are used to make other plastics.

In Europe, the plastics most commonly recycled with this method are PET, polyamide (PA) and PS. This recycling process also allows us to recover plastic films that cannot be recycled mechanically, such as multilayer plastics, or plastics that have been in the sea.

Chemical recycling, which requires a high level of technology, helps us move towards a circular economy by giving useful life to plastics that would otherwise have ended up polluting the environment.

Energy recycling

Energy recycling consists of burning plastic packaging waste to use the heat during the production process, or to produce electricity.

This recovery process prevents many plastic materials ending up in landfill and polluting the environment. It is estimated that 8% of Spain’s energy needs can be covered by reusing plastic and obtaining energy from waste.

The city of Madrid, for example, has already implemented this process in several of its recovery plants. After the Basel Convention, Europe as a whole has managed to replace 43 % of fossil fuels used with energy produced using cement kilns.

Plastics Identification Codes

All recyclable products need to be properly labelled so that consumers can identify the different plastics and separate them correctly. Find out what these symbols mean.

Polietileno Tereftalato

Polyethylene terephthalate

This is the most commonly used plastic in food packaging, and it is known for its high degree of recyclability. Any packaging made from PET must be taken to packaging recycling bins where it is collected and taken to a recycling plant to be separated from other materials.

Polietileno de alta densidad

High-density polyethylene

This plastic is resistant to chemical products and can be recycled to make detergent bottles. milk cartons or garden furniture. HDPE is recycled mechanically, when it is washed, separated from other plastics and, lastly, reduced to 80-90% of the original packaging volume.

Vinílicos o Cloruro de polivinilo

Vinyls and polyvinyl chloride

These materials are rarely recycled and little used in food packaging.

Polietileno de baja densidad

Low-density polyethylene

This transparent, flexible plastic is used in different types of bags. It can be recycled and reused to make bins, pipes and tiles. Together with PET, this is the most commonly recycled plastic.

Polipropileno

Polypropylene

This material stands out for its durability and heat resistance, which make it popular for microwaveable packaging. It is used to make toothbrushes, trays and illuminated signs.

Poliestireno

Polystyrene

This material is not recommended for food use, as it is very rarely recycled. It is used for plastic cutlery, glasses and plates, and packaging for cosmetics. It is particularly problematic to recycle. Today, it is generally avoided for products with a short shelf life, with the preference being for plastics that guarantee a higher degree of recycling, such as PET and LDPE.

Mezcla de otros plásticos

Other plastics

This code covers several different plastics that are difficult to recycle. European countries are reducing production of these types of plastics in favour of less-polluting options.

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Sustainable packaging

SP Group’s commitment to sustainable food packaging involves redesigning traditional packaging formats to create sustainable packaging that reduces our ecological footprint and aids the recycling process. Discover our most environmentally friendly packaging.

Biodegradable packaging

This type of packaging is made from plant-based raw materials that come from renewable sources such as cellulose and sugars. After disposal, this waste breaks down in the natural environment, becoming biomass and providing nutrients the soil needs. SP Group offers BIO FVSOL 60 and BIO FVSOL MATT N, both of which are biodegradable, compostable and biobased films.

Recyclable packaging

We aim to use as much post-consumer recycled packaging in our PET as possible to ensure a high content of recycled material. Our materials can be recycled and used to create new packaging, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the production process. The plastic materials that we guarantee can be recycled are PET, HDPE, LDPE and PP. Our recyclable materials range includes our eco range: PE ECO and PE HB ECO.

Recycled packaging

We give plastic a second life by choosing to make recycled packaging. This packaging is produced from materials that have previously been used in different types of packaging. The waste becomes new raw materials. One of our materials that is made from 100% recycled material is rPET. This monolayer film has good chemical and heat resistance.

Carbon footprint-friendly packaging

Our commitment to caring for our planet has resulted in a reduction in greenhouse gases. Thanks to the incorporation of recycled material into the production process and the downgauging of our films, SP Group now offers food packaging with a lower carbon footprint. This packaging is also printed with solvent-free inks, which makes it even more sustainable. The packaging group includes the R-Closing Efficient, SOL, FSOL and VSOL films.

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European Regulatory Framework

In 2018, the European Commission published a document detailing the first European strategy for plastics as part of the transition towards a circular economy.

This strategy will protect the environment from plastic pollution while incentivising growth and innovation, thereby turning an obstacle into a positive programme for the future of Europe. The strategy consists of four measures, and aims to transform the way products are designed, produced, used and recycled in the EU. The measures are:

Improve design and support innovation to make plastics and plastics products easier to recycle.

Expand and improve the separate collection of plastic waste, to ensure quality inputs to the recycling industry.

Expand and modernise the EU’s sorting and recycling capacity.

Create viable markets for recycled and renewable plastics.

FAQS

Sustainability FAQs

Packaging is considered recyclable when it passes all the classification stages at a sorting plant (for example: Ecoembes). This sorted waste then reaches a recycling company that transforms it into a raw material for reuse.

For example, a transparent PET bottle measuring more than 6 cm (which makes it through the drum of the trommel screen*) that is sorted in the PET stream. The bottle is then received by a recycling company that transforms it into flakes, which plastics manufacturers can use to make new packaging materials, as is the case of SP GROUP. Other industries may have different applications for this recycled material (textiles, construction, etc.).

However, if the bottle has a sleeve** of a different material fully covering its body, it will not be possible to effectively sort it and it will not reach the recycling plant.

*A mechanical screening machine used to separate materials, mainly in the mineral and solid-waste processing industries.

**A label that completely surrounds the bottle and is shrunk onto it in a sleeving process.

The European Commission guidelines state that sustainable packaging is any packaging which can be recycled, reused or composted. In its guidelines, it primarily promotes the recyclability of plastics, encompassing both the design and production phases. For this reason, all the members of the value chain have to work closely together on the following points:

  • Improving design and supporting innovation to make plastics and plastics products easier to recycle.
  • Expanding and improving plastic waste collection and sorting systems to ensure the quality of the product reaching the recycling industry.
  • Expanding and modernising the EU’s waste handling and recycling capacity.
  • Creating a viable market for recycled and renewable plastics.

There are currently no regulations governing what information or message can be put on packaging regarding its degree of sustainability.

However, there is a standard, the ISO 14021:2017 on environmental labels and declarations, which provides plenty of guidelines on how to communicate this information in a clear and simple way for end consumers.

There is also a very useful guide on eco-labelling published by ECOEMBES together with IHOBE (Basque Government Environmental Management Society) and the Basque Government.

We understand that as long as the published messages are not misleading or confusing, any kind of information related to the origin of the raw material, recyclability, recycled content, etc. can be provided.

For example, if the packaging is made of a material that is compostable and has a certificate to prove it, the stamp can be added to the design to reflect this. It is common to find a stamp when the message is verified and certified by a third party (compostability, carbon footprint, products environmental statement, etc.). However, there is currently no way of certifying the recyclability of the packaging, although we can use the ISO-14021 standard.

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THE CHALLENGES OF SUSTAINABILITY IN FLEXIBLE PACKAGING

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