Mastering masterbatches: How plastic packaging colours up

The colourant used in your plastic packaging can spell the difference between a pack that meets consumer desires or misses the mark. So, with sustainability and naturality such major asks, what are companies offering to help beauty companies achieve their goals?

In 2019, German consumer goods giant Henkel announced that it was developing an innovative, fully recyclable solution for black plastic packaging. More recently, in September, Henkel revealed that it was now using this more sustainable black plastic to pack its Syoss hair care brand.

The new packaging material uses an alternative carbon-free black colour that allows for used bottles to be integrated back into the value chain.

For many consumers who’d been gleefully tossing black plastic bottles in with the rest of their recyclables, the news that such products aren’t generally recyclable probably came as an unwelcome surprise.

But, as industry is aware, black plastic packaging poses a challenge for recyclers. Facilities use near infra-red (NIR) technology to identify the plastic materials to be recycled and optical sensors utilise the reflection of light to detect the material and sort it accordingly.

Black plastic packaging, however, due to presence of carbon black, cannot be identified and sorted properly by these optical sensors.

Henkel’s recyclable black plastic uses a solution created by Ampacet, a global provider of masterbatches, called REC-NIR Black, which imparts a black colour to the plastic, but still allows the scanner to identify the plastic for proper recycling.

But, let’s go back to basics here. What exactly is a masterbatch? And why is the choice of masterbatch so crucial to the look, performance and even sustainability of your packaging?

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