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Masterbatches

The LifoCycle product range supports material recycling

| Global themes | Lifocolor Farben GmbH & Co. KG | Lichtenfels | Germany

As part of the circular economy, plastics producers and recyclers are striving to increase the proportion of recycled thermoplastics. With its LifoCycle product range, Lifocolor supports processors who use recyclable products. The special masterbatches ensure that used plastics can be sorted, can be recycled several times and provide high colour and product qualities.

Life without plastics is impossible to imagine today. Their longevity makes it a challenge when products or packaging made of plastic are disposed of in nature after use or are dumped in large quantities without being sorted. Numerous initiatives call for a higher recycling rate. The new packaging law, which came into force in Germany at the beginning of 2019, also requires this. Across the EU, numerous organisations of plastics producers and recyclers have already made voluntary commitments and committed themselves to expand plastics recycling activities.

The focus is on the transition to a circular economy, which can only be achieved with the participation of the plastics producing and processing industries. In addition to energy and chemical recycling, mechanical, material recycling is particularly suitable. After professional sorting employing extrusion, recycled plastic fractions are transformed into new high-quality products.

Primary product manufacturers set the course for recyclability

For the mechanical recycling of thermoplastics to be successful, it is important to ensure their recyclability during the manufacture of primary products. It is also important to ensure that batches of old plastic can be sorted in the recycling process itself. The aim is the production of recycled material with reproducible quality. LifoCycle, the product family from the Lichtenfels masterbatch specialist Lifocolor, supports all of this.

The basis of the product range is recyclable masterbatches for polyester and polyolefins, which survive numerous recycling cycles without any loss of quality. For this purpose, special colourants are used whose colouristic properties remain largely constant even after several extrusion runs. They are designed for the process temperatures of the respective polymer. The LifoCycle range is available for PET as well as for PE and PP, optionally based on PCR or virgin material. Different pellet sizes allow low dosages even lower than 0.1 per cent, depending on customer requirements. Masterbatches are also available for food applications.

Solutions for colour stability and sorting in recycling cycles

To meet the increasing demands placed on additives in the context of recycling management, Lifocolor has developed LifoCycle-Stab, a combination of stable additive components that ensure the UV stability of the end product, even with multiple recycling cycles. For PET recycling, thermostable additives, e.g. also lubricants and anti-block masterbatches, are also available on rPET or PET substrates.

Lifocolor solutions also support the sorting of used plastics according to polymer type and colour. Problems occur especially with black plastics that are dyed with carbon black. Carbon black absorbs near-infrared (NIR) radiation, which is used in automatic sorting. This means that the plastic remains unrecognised and is incorrectly allocated in the recycling cycle or cannot be sorted. Various NIR detectable masterbatches can remedy this for almost any polymer. The products dyed with them hardly differ visually from those dyed with carbon black. Yet, they can be sorted automatically without any problems. 

Colour deviation of the recycled material can be corrected

However, even optimised sorting processes can lead to fractions with fluctuating colours and non-uniform transparency. Recyclers may need other additives to ensure consistent quality of the recycled material. For example, the addition of LifoCycle Clear to rPET can be used to achieve the consistent colouring of the recycled material. Existing deviations such as yellow or greenish tinge are corrected by addition. Recyclers and processors of coloured recycled materials can use LifoCycle products to deal with quality fluctuations and achieve the desired target colour.

With the help of the products in the LifoCycle range, processors and recyclers can work together to achieve a sustainable increase in the material recycling content of plastics. This takes into account the demands of legislation and consumer expectations for plastic products based on recycled material.

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