The sleeve packaging that is ideal for recycling

Sleeve packaging solutions make a positive impression due to their attractive appearance, pleasant feel, and wide variety of finishing options. In addition, shrink-wrap solutions are the decoration of choice for unusual packaging shapes, allowing products to be encased in a variety of ways and producing an outstanding visual impact from top to bottom. When the right steps are taken, sleeve packaging is also ideal for recycling. Because the plastic cup under the sleeve is white or transparent, it can be recycled very effectively, yielding high-quality recycled material. To take full advantage of this potential, choosing the best possible material combination for the sleeve and plastic cup is crucial.

Increase recyclability

Combination of materials provides maximum recyclability
Zipper allows for active separation of sleeve

Greiner Packaging opts for PP cups with PO sleeves

Greiner Packaging now produces PP cups with sleeves made of PO (a material composition with constituents such as PP and PE). There is a simple reason why it has chosen this solution. When the PP cup enters the PP recycling stream, the plastic cup’s components are subjected to various sorting processes in the PP stream (sink-float process or wind sifting) and the PO sleeve’s components are directed to a separate stream. If relatively small remnants of the PO sleeve remain attached to the PP material, the impact on the material stream is minor.

In Europe, many customers currently use oriented polystyrene (OPS) as their sleeve material. OPS sleeves can also be easily separated from PP cups in the recycling process using standard methods. But because PO has similar properties to PP, it has the advantage of contaminating the material stream to an even lesser extent than OPS (for instance, if the sleeve is not properly separated from the cup).

Zipper allows for easy separation of cup and sleeve at home

If consumers nonetheless want to be absolutely sure that all components enter the right stream from the outset so they can be recycled as effectively as possible, they can easily play their part. Thanks to a simple tear-off system similar to a zipper, the sleeve can be detached from the cup in seconds, meaning the two components can be disposed of separately in household recycling.

Good to know:

Successful detection and sorting largely depend on the sleeve’s characteristics and the material combination of the plastic cup and sleeve.

  • The sleeve’s thickness may affect the detectability of the packaging.
  • Metallic paints, barrier options, and finishes can also have an impact on detectability.
  • If more than 50% of the packaging is covered with a sleeve, we recommend that an empirical sorting test is carried out to determine the detectability.

Once the cups are properly detected and assigned to the correct recycling stream, the actual recycling process can begin.

Different methods are used to separate sleeves from cups.

One key step is the sink-float process – if the sleeve and cup have different densities, the flakes can easily be separated from each other (PP and PE flakes float to the top, PS and PET flakes sink to the bottom).

Another important step is wind sifting, where a jet of air separates the lighter sleeve flakes from the heavier cup flakes.

After these steps have been followed, if parts of the sleeve are still present in the PP recycling stream, a PO sleeve will not contaminate the material stream to a significant extent (when compared with other sleeve materials).

If the aim is to get all the packaging components into the right streams from the outset so they can be recycled as effectively as possible, consumers must separate the sleeve from the cup before disposal. Thanks to a simple tear-off system, the sleeve can be detached from the cup in seconds, meaning the two components can be disposed of separately in household recycling. A standardized pictogram prompting consumers to detach the sleeve can be offered to customers.

Which sleeve for which cup?

PP cup PO sleeve or OPS sleeve
PS cup OPS sleeve oder OP sleeve
PET cup PO sleeve

Get in touch

Fabian Kimmerle
Director of Supply Chain Management