Recycling is standard practice now that consumerism by-products are believed to contribute to environmental damage substantially. Paper is one of the most recycled materials. Therefore, corrugated cardboard shipping boxes are often broken down to produce new paper products. Unfortunately, while reclaiming corrugated paper, closure materials such as plastic tape, staples, threads, and glues are rejected. The recycling industry refers to these masses of materials as paper sludge. Surprisingly, the sludge is also recyclable.
Spectape of Texas manufacturers an extensive line of commercial packaging tapes using both plastics and paper as the bearing material for the adhesive. Their line of Kraft paper tape utilizes recycled materials and its production. Furthermore, the company tests the strength and holding power of each of its packing tapes to ensure that packages reach their destinations intact. Maintaining package integrity is important because should a package break open the contents become waste. The manufacture, packing, and shipping process must begin again thereby negating conservation efforts. Another conservation advantage of strength and holding power is the less tape required to secure the package, the less waste and resource consumption.
Even under optimum conditions, packing box recycling produces a significant amount of sludge. Because the plastic component of this sludge is petroleum based, it is hazardous in landfills. These compounds are mostly non-biodegradable and may leach toxins into the soil and water. However, sludge’s high petroleum and water content make it an ideal fuel for waste-to-energy incineration. This waste-to-energy initiative is becoming a global effort with countries such as China and Germany joining in the trend.
Although using recycled paper to produce Kraft paper tape is environmentally friendly, contrary to first impressions paper tape is usually more harmful to the environment than its plastic counterpart. Several reasons exist for this. First, regarding mass, paper tape weighs considerably more than plastic so if all tape were equally disposed of in landfills the paper tape would take much more room. Second, the shipping box recycling process must separate tape adhesive residue from the paper pulp as adhesives act as contaminants, known as stickies, that blemish the remanufactured paper. Adhesives tend to stay on the polypropylene film of plastic tape, so it is easy to remove from the pulp, but paper tapes release the adhesive layer leaving it on the corrugated cardboard surface.
Finally, recycling plastic tape is more efficient and beneficial than recycling paper tape. The resulting petroleum-based residue from plastic tape waste is a clean and efficient source of energy when incinerated. Although producers may burn paper tape waste, it does not provide as much energy as plastic. Additionally, it is not economical to reclaim the paper for recycling. Incidentally, it is also better to use the plastic-based waste material for energy recovery instead of recycling it into new plastic products using current methods. Energy recovery efforts may reclaim up to 95% of the original oil energy from waste plastics making it more economical to produce new plastic from fresh oil than to produce energy from fresh oil.
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