• Sustainability Glossary

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to sustainability, but this extensive glossary is here to help. Filled with information, it provides dozens of definitions and helpful explanations. Refer to it when you need to learn about specific terms, organizations and initiatives, or use it as a tool for expanding your knowledge and understanding.

Please note that the information in this glossary is subject to change and will be updated in accordance with new developments. If you see something that needs consideration, please get in touch.

 

 

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

I

L

M

N

P

R

S

U

V

W

Y

 

 

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Adhesive residue/contamination


When self-adhesive products are being recycled, there is a risk of adhesive residue remaining on products, resulting in contamination. For example, in PET recycling, residue may remain on PET flakes after the caustic wash phase of the recycling process.

 

 

Air elutriation (separation)


A step in the mechanical plastic recycling process that uses streams of air to blow lightweight materials, like paper and film, off of the reclaimed plastic.

 

 

 

American Chemistry Council (ACC)

ACC is a trade association that promotes the interests of companies specializing in chemistry. Plastics are a key sector for this organization and it works to promote plastic recycling and innovations that advance the field.

 

 

 

 

 

Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR)

Trade association representing companies that acquire, reprocess and sell the output of more than 90 % of the post-consumer plastic processing capacity in North America. APR’s goal is to expand the post-consumer plastics recycling industry by eliminating barriers to successful commercial recycling. 

 

 

 

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B

Bio-based content

Bio-based products are wholly or partly derived from biomass.

 

 



 

Biomass 

Biomass is renewable organic material derived from trees, plants and agricultural and urban waste. When biomass is used as a raw material, it is necessary to certify the product according to available standards (e.g., ISCC) in order to claim that it is made with renewable or recycled content.

 

 

 

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C

Chemical recycling

Also known as feedstock recycling, this process requires changing the chemical structure of plastic waste by converting it into shorter molecules that are ready to be used for new chemical reactions. The resulting product can be used for various applications and is food safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caustic wash

A step in the recycling process that eliminates contamination by washing bottles and other items in a caustic substance. In PET recycling, the PET flakes are exposed to a warm caustic solution and food matter, dirt and adhesives are rinsed away.

Traditional pressure-sensitive adhesives won’t be removed during this process, though. However, our CleanFlakeTM portfolio is made with an adhesive designed to accommodate this process and cleanly separate from the PET flake.

Returnable glass bottles also go through a caustic bath to prepare them for reuse and our wash-off labels are designed for clean and easy label removal during this process.

 

Carbon footprint

A carbon footprint measures the total greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by a person, organization, event or product. Common methodologies used to determine this include life cycle assessments, the GHG Protocol and ISO 14067.

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

China Plastics Reuse and Recycling Association (CPRRA)

The largest national association of recycling professionals in China, it consists of more than 700 members and focuses on promoting materials recycling while supporting the free and fair trade of recyclables in a sustainable and competitive world economy. 

Circular economy

As defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems.

 

Closed-loop system 

A system in which materials are reclaimed, returned to, and reused at the same material technical application equivalence or performance specifications as when the material was first used.

 

 

 

Color sorting

The process of separating plastic packaging by color. Clear, blue and green plastic are separated for food-grade r-plastic. Other colors can be downcycled and used in a variety of different industries.

 

Compostability

A characteristic of a product, packaging, or associated component that allows it to biodegrade, generating a relatively homogeneous and stable humus-like substance.

 

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D

Design for Recyclability (DfR):

An EcoDesign strategy centered on the creation of more environmentally friendly products. For more information about DfR and packaging, please review the Design for Recycling Guidelines, which offer advice on creating packaging components in a way that increases recyclability.

 

 

 

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E

EcoDesign

A multi-disciplinary and criteria-based process for developing products that have the best positive social, environmental, and financial impact. EcoDesign generally governs the entire product development process, from ideation to implementation.



European PET Bottle Platform (EPBP)

The European PET Bottle Platform is a voluntary industry initiative that provides PET bottle design guidelines for recycling; evaluates PET bottle packaging solutions and technologies; and facilitates understanding of  the effects of new PET bottle innovations on recycling processes.

 

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

A public policy tool that extends a producer’s full or partial financial and/or operational responsibility for a product to the postconsumer state of a product’s life cycle in order to help meet recycling and recovery targets.

 

 

 

Eco-efficiency

Eco-efficiency is a management strategy focused on doing more with less and using fewer resources to create goods and services, reducing waste and pollution.



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F

FINAT

The European association for the self-adhesive label industry, FINAT acts as a source of information, a networking platform and a representative for the sector, among other things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food-grade rPET

Reclaimed PET flake that is FDA or EFSA approved for reuse in plastic packaging for food grade applications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FSC® certified / FSC Mix / FSC Recycled

A non-profit organization, the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) establishes high standards to ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible and socially beneficial manner. The FSC system makes it easier for companies and consumers to identify and buy items made with materials from well-managed forests or recycled materials.

FSC certified products come from forests that are responsibly managed in a way that delivers economic, environmental and social benefits.  

FSC Mix products are made from recycled substances, materials from FSC-certified forests or FSC-controlled wood. Though controlled wood does not come from FSC-certified forests, it diminishes the risk of using materials from undesirable sources.


FSC Recycled products are made from 100% recycled content, which can be either post- or pre-consumer reclaimed materials. Using products with this label helps protect forests by reducing the amount of virgin materials used to make different items, including packaging for food and home goods.

 

 

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G

Green chemistry

The design of chemical processes and products in a way that eliminates or reduces the use or creation of hazardous substances. This is being driven by the EU’s Chemical Strategy for Sustainability.

 

 

 

Greenhouse gas

Gases in the atmosphere (including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) that can absorb infrared radiation, trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Emissions of these substances result from various activities, including burning fuel for energy, industrial farming and deforestation, and lead to climate change.

 

 

 

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I

Incineration

The destruction of something, especially waste material, by burning under specific conditions to limit toxic emissions. This waste disposal method increases greenhouse gas emissions. Most waste incineration is combined with energy recovery to reduce its carbon footprint and turn the waste into a resource.

INGEDE

INGEDE is a non-profit association focused on maintaining and improving the recyclability of graphic print products. Over the years, it has helped establish standards for pulping paper and handling adhesives.

 

ISCC

The International Sustainability & Carbon Certification is a system that covers the entire supply chain as well as bio-based feedstocks and renewables. It works to provide solutions for traceable supply chains that don’t cause deforestation.

 

 

 

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L

Landfill

A location where waste is disposed of by burial. This is the least preferred method of disposal, as it does not provide an opportunity to reuse or recycle the waste.




 

Life cycle (of a product or a material)

Consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system, from raw material acquisition or generation, through to final disposal.

 



 

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

A life cycle assessment (also known as a life cycle analysis) is a method for calculating the environmental impact of a product, material or service. The methodology is defined in the ISO 14040/14044 standard. When analyzing environmental impact, all materials, resources and energy used in creating a product should be considered.

 

 

 

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M

Material recovery facility

A facility that accepts mixed curbside recyclables and separates them into different material categories

 

 

Mechanical recycling

A material recovery process in which plastic waste is turned into new raw materials or products without significantly changing the chemical structure of the original substance.

 

 

 

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N

Near Infrared Spectrometry (NIR) Sorting

The automated identification and separation of plastics by type (i.e. PET, HDPE) for additional sorting and processing. NIR sensors are used to identify the color and type of the plastic resin as an initial step in the sorting process.

 

 

 

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P

Petcore

Petcore Europe, based in Brussels, is an association that has represented the PET value chain since 1993.

 



Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE)

Plastics Recyclers Europe is a consortium of trade associations representing European plastics recyclers that turn waste into high-quality materials for the production of new items.

 

Pre-consumer/post industrial waste


A material that’s diverted from the waste stream during manufacturing. Excludes the reutilization of materials such as rework, regrind or scrap that are generated in a process and capable of being reclaimed within that same process.

 

 

Post-consumer resin (PCR)

A plastic reclaimed after consumer use that has been re-processed to be reused in manufacturing, and consists of blended or recycled resins that would have otherwise become waste.

Post-industrial resin

Plastic waste recovered from industrial processes that consists of blended or recycled resins coming from industrial waste. In contrast to post-consumer resin, post-industrial resin comes from plastic that never reached consumers.

Post-consumer waste

Material generated by households or commercial, industrial and institutional end-users of a product that can no longer be used for its intended purpose.

 

 

 

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R

Reclaimer

Also known as a recycler, it is a recycling facility that processes waste into usable raw materials.

 

 

Recyclable

A characteristic of a product, piece of packaging, or associated component that allows it to be diverted from the waste stream through different processes and programs so it can be collected, processed and reused.

RecyClass

RecyClass is a platform dedicated to advancing the recyclability of plastic packaging. Driven by the interests of retailers, brands, recyclers, converters and raw materials producers, it aims to harmonize recycling methodology and guidelines across the EU.

 

 

Recycled content

Proportion, by mass, of recycled material in a product or packaging.



 

Recycled material


A material that’s recovered or diverted from the non-hazardous solid waste stream so it can be reused, recycled or reclaimed and turned into either a final product or a component that can be used in making a new one.

Renewable material


Material that is composed of biomass.



 

 

 

Repulpable adhesive

An adhesive that completely dissolves in water during the paper re-pulping process.

 

 

 

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S

Sink/float separation (recycling process)

A water-based process for separating materials through density during recycling. For example, with CleanFlake™, the flakes are agitated in a caustic wash, so that label materials detach and float to the surface, while the flakes sink. In this step, it is critical for the labeling material to have a density of less than 1 g/cm3 so that it floats. Otherwise, it will sink and contaminate the plastic flakes.

Stickies

Tacky substances found in the paper pulp and process water systems of the machines used for recycling post-consumer paper waste. They can cause contamination issues and may come from adhesives, waxes, inks and additives used in making paper, among other substances.

 



Sustainable Development Goals

A series of 17 goals that address pressing global challenges, including poverty, climate change and environmental degradation. These goals define sustainable development priorities and aim to motivate international efforts by governments, businesses and civil society to eliminate poverty and create a better life for all while respecting the planet’s boundaries.

 

 

 

Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC)


The SPC is a collaborative organization that works to improve packaging systems, supports the creation of packaging that is good for people and the environment and serves as an authoritative voice on related issues.

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U

Upgradability


A term used to describe something, including machinery, that is capable of having its functionality improved by the addition or replacement of its components. 

 

 

 

 

Utilization rate

In terms of PET, the utilization rate is the amount of clean PET flake produced from bottles in the US compared to the recycling rate. In 2013, the recycling rate was 31.2%, while the utilization rate was 22.6%, representing a loss of nearly one-third of the PET flake produced from recycled bottles. The utilization rate is affected by contamination issues related to things like labels and adhesives.

 

 

 

 

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V

Virgin plastic

A resin that’s created using virgin petro-chemical inputs and no post-consumer recycled content.

 

 

 

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W

Waste to Energy (WTE)

WTE is a waste disposal process where energy is recovered when select waste is incinerated under specific conditions.




 

Wash-off label

A type of label made with a special adhesive that allows it to be cleanly removed from packaging or bottles when washed under certain conditions.

 



Water whitening

A label defect caused by an adhesive re-emulsifying (also known as “blushing”) when exposed to water or moisture, which turns it a milky color and results in the loss of transparency. This can be caused by applying labels to wet or damp surfaces.

 

 

 

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Y

Yield (recycling)

The yield is the material successfully reclaimed through recycling. Any attachment or decoration on a PET container – including its label – can reduce yield, affect the quality of whatever plastic can be reclaimed and increase recycling costs.