ECOFLEXOBAG project analyzes sustainable inks and substrates for Plastic Commercial Bags

ECOFLEXOBAG project has analyzed the market penetration and performance of sustainable inks and substrates used for Plastic Commercial Bags. The main issues regarding the environmental impact of commercial bags are related with the origin of materials and inks, the number of times they are used and the waste management. Although nowadays it´s possible to carry on different actions to achieve environmental improvement, there are different factors which reduce the effectiveness of the environmental reduction, both for reasons related to the production stage, as for current patterns of consumption and sometimes for an inadequate waste management carried out by the users themselves.

Ecoflexobag is a European initiative funded by the Life+ Programme Environment Policy 2011 targeted to the development of guidelines and tools for reducing the impact of the Plastics Commercial Bags. The technological centers AIDO and AIMPLAS (Spain), Dienstencentrum (Holland), Enviros (Czech Republic) and VTT (Finland) are the organizations involved in the development of this project.

ECOFLEXOBAG project concluded in June some studies about the trends related to the production and consumption and the performance of sustainable inks and plastic substrates used for Plastic Commercial Bags, with the next main conclussions:

·       The share of biodegradable bags is small, and the trend is that it will not increase too much. In some EU countries the waste management systems are not adequate because the separation is not correctly made in origin.

·       Main trend is to increase the amount of recycled plastic when manufacturing new bags and increase the proportion of reusable bags against one-use bags.

·       Water‐based inks are the only viable alternative to Solvents-based inks. They are available and prepared to have a good performance although there are certain quality issues which restrict their use.

·       PLA and starch based bags could achieve similar print quality in terms of tone reproduction and dot shape with solvent based inks. But when printed with water based inks PLA and starch showed a poor behavior in dot shape and in solid reproduction. In fact, the water based inks performed worse than the solvent inks in solid reproduction, this is due to the high surface tension of water when compared with solvents and could be improved by adding surfactants to the ink or improving the surface treatment of the films. All tested film showed similar color response with the different inks, and the solvent and water based inks had a very similar colorimetric response.

At present, the Consortium works in guidelines in the field of ecodesign, printing and process monitoring which will allow the reduction of the impact of the Plastic Commercial Bags through their Life Cycle

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