Brazil's Vitopel making paper from recycled thin film

Bob Moser
PLASTICS NEWS CORRESPONDENT

Published: March 19, 2013 11:15 am ET
Updated: March 19, 2013 3:28 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Polyethylene, Polystyrene, Film & Sheet, Recycling, Latin America, Polypropylene

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL — Vitopel SA, Latin America's largest plastics films producer and top annual consumer of polypropylene, has been working with local manufacturers and recyclers, including Braskem SA, to produce a paper made from 75 percent recycled plastic. The material won't age or wet, can be used for writing or printing, and is the first synthetic paper in the world made from post-consumer recycled plastic.

Dubbed Vitopaper, the technology is 100 percent Brazilian, created by Vitopel and researchers at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), in São Paulo, through three years of collaborative research. The paper boasts the texture and appearance of coated cellulose paper, but is made from recycled plastic packaging like wrappers for ice cream, snacks and bottle labels.

The recycling method is a breakthrough for film plastics in Brazil, because before now these plastics went straight to landfills. Every ton of Vitopaper produced diverts 750 kg of plastic from landfills, the company says.

The main raw material used is bioriented polypropylene (BOPP/PP), common in flexible packaging production. The paper's printing is carried out on the same machines Vitopel uses for its primary film packaging, a key for this type of recycling effort to be easily adoptable, said Patricia Goncalves, Vitopel product manager.

Recycled plastic packaging is cut, washed and formed into pellets, receives a cocktail of additives to give the appearance of paper, and is stretched into thin film. Vitopel's recipe also allows for the incorporation of other types of plastics, offering the company multiple feedstocks for future production. Those include low-density polyethylene (i.e. Plastic grocery bags), high-density polyethylene and polystyrene.

In addition to being 75 percent recycled and 100 percent recyclable, Vitopaper is 30 percent lighter than standard paper, and requires 20 percent less ink during printing for a similar appearance. Its limitations lie with certain printer models, and cannot work with laser models because it can't withstand temperatures above 248° F. The paper is water-proof and resistant to moths, so it won't expire, and has been used thus far by clients printing menus, magazines and books.

"We have already sold more than 1,000 tons (of Vitopaper), not much compared to BOPP, but impressive growth considering we are competing directly with paper and synthetic paper," said Andre Marzall, Vitopel's North America sales executive.

Brazilian national oil and gas company Petrobras is one of a handful of clients that have used Vitopaper for their annual report, and Brazil's Ministry of Foreign Relations used it for print materials during the Rio+20, an international conference on environmental issues in 2012. Pilot projects are in development with PepsiCo and another major beverage company in Brazil.

Despite the environmental benefits already being embraced by clients, Vitopaper faces competitive challenges. It's currently more expensive than traditional paper because of its smaller production scale, and Brazilian taxes.

Cellulose paper for books and periodicals isn't taxed in Brazil, but Vitopaper's plastic profile draws multiple taxes. An exemption from Brazil's industrialized products tax was granted in 2011, but an 18 percent generalized state tax on "circulation of goods and services" remains.

Brazilian national policy requiring businesses to recycle solid waste took effect in 2011, mandating packaging and post-industrial waste to be collected on site. This is helping Vitopel pursue collection and re-sale partnerships with companies that have BOPP/PP refuse, Marzall said.

Vitopaper will export to Europe for the first time this year, with a major supermarket chain in France using the paper for advertising in its carts. North American exports are the next goal, but it's a tough market to crack, Marzall says.

"The first thing U.S. companies want to know about is pricing, and the last thing I want to mention to them is pricing," Marzall said. "It's a very specific product with high added value. When you talk to companies, they think of synthetic paper and cellulose only. You have to break the barrier, showing them the advantage of synthetic paper from recycled sources."


Comments

Brazil's Vitopel making paper from recycled thin film

Bob Moser
PLASTICS NEWS CORRESPONDENT

Published: March 19, 2013 11:15 am ET
Updated: March 19, 2013 3:28 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Clear Lam settles Doritos lawsuit

March 3, 2015 4:06 pm ET

Clear Lam Packaging Inc. has settled a months-old lawsuit against Frito-Lay Inc. alleging “breach of contract, false advertising, and...    More

Image

Best Places To Work: No. 1, Northstar Recycling Co. Inc.

March 3, 2015 12:29 pm ET

Employee health care benefits have been wasting away, year after year, as companies work to contain costs and keep their bottom lines in shape....    More

Image

Recycling trade group growing in size, resources

February 27, 2015 4:50 pm ET

DALLAS — The executive director of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers is partial to calling his group the little engine that...    More

Image

Silicone baby teether company working with Massachusetts recycler

February 26, 2015 1:14 pm ET

A recycling company and a startup will try to keep silicone baby products out of landfill.    More

Image

Price and sustainability both key to success for carpet recycler

February 26, 2015 1:28 pm ET

DALLAS — A green message will get you in the door, but ultimately that sustainability message has to be backed up with quality at the right pric...    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

North America represents about 30 percent of the global consumption of flexible packaging. Annual growth in this region is forecast at 4 percent during the next 5 years.

For more insight on growth opportunities, drivers of growth and the outlook for 2015, download this report.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 billion plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events