Soyang Europe ramps up PVC recycling initiative

Soyang Europe has ramped up its new print waste recycling partnership with waste management specialist Blue Castle Group that it said it has initiated to pioneer the use of PVC banner material as an environmentally sustainable substrate.

The digitally printable media manufacturer said the PVC Recycling Membership Scheme, which received an initial soft roll-out last year, offers “a much sought-after solution to the industry’s PVC waste dilemma”.

Soyang Europe managing director Mark Mashiter described the scheme as “the first step towards a very real recycling solution to the use of PVC banner material, which is widely used within the printing industry, but not currently recyclable”.

He said: “We started quite slowly with some select customers who were mainly in the outdoor market – people producing billboards and banners. We wanted to do it step by step to make sure everything was going to work 100% before we rolled it out to the rest of the industry.

“The feedback has been very good so far. We’re making some very nice progress at the beginning with some of the higher volume production printers. They’ve really entered into it because of pressure from their customer base as much as anything, as well as the realisation that they need to do the right thing rather than sending product to landfill.”

He added: “It was a real struggle to recycle PVC previously because of the nature of the product. It was very difficult to process; but with the partnership with Blue Castle we’ve gone more industrial. We knew it could be done but the problem was finding the right machinery to process the product.

"It’s not the easiest of processes and that’s why we went gently at the beginning and are now taking it to the market.”

Blue Castle Group has developed and rigorously tested the machinery needed to convert PVC banner into a reusable format.

“Our team has worked tirelessly to not only cultivate a workable solution for PVC waste recycling, but also to strengthen relationships with partner companies capable of using this material once it has been processed and broken down,” said Blue Castle Group chief executive Marie Harley.

The company’s PVC recycling plant is located near to the company’s head office in Lincolnshire, where a team puts the PVC waste through an industrial sized shredding machine to break it down into a re-processable size.

“We have extensively tested the PVC banner material, establishing critical elements such as its flash point and chemical properties,” said Harley.

“We’ve explored many options for using the shredded PVC and thanks to strong partner relationships in other sectors, we have developed lines of supply to ensure the processed banner material has viable future uses in a range of industries.”

Mashiter added: “PVC is still the best substrate to print onto today. A lot of digital printers prefer to print onto PVC than alternatives because of quality of product, strength, ink adhesion and fabrication processes when you try to finish the product. PVC tends to work better than any other substrate.”

He is hopeful that the use of PVC will increase following the introduction of the initiative.

“Now there is a responsible way to recycle PVC with traceability, where product isn’t going offshore but is actually being used to give it a second life, then we hope that the printing houses will sell the concept to the end user.”

The initiative started with four users and now has more than 20, a number that Mashiter said he is expecting to increase “quite dramatically”.

He added the cost of using the service depends on quantities.

“If it was a small printer then the cost would be high, we’d probably have a cage in their premises. But large printers would tend to bale the product, so it’s economies of scale.

“But you’ve got to compare it to the cost of landfill, where prices are increasing year-on-year so the price to dispose of any waste at landfill is becoming more and more expensive. You’ve got to consider that and offset it off that cost, as well as doing the right thing, which is the main target.”