Leonhard Kurz
Study on the recycling of decorated plastics

26.08.2019 Leonhard Kurz is presenting the results of a comprehensive study on recycling at K 2019, in the VDMA Circular Economy Forum. The in-house produced study examined the mechanical recyclability of plastic parts that have been decorated with surface coatings from Kurz.

The plastic part with recycled content decorated in the IMD Varioform process.
© Photo: Kurz
The plastic part with recycled content decorated in the IMD Varioform process.

Kurz commissioned its development team to effectively support its customers in setting up a return and recycling system and in reducing their CO2 footprint. “Our customers need clear evidence that our surface decoration products do not affect the recyclability of their plastics. The scientifically sound study and our more than 120 years of experience in surface decoration enable us to effectively advise them in the development of their recycling concept,” explains Astrid Rauh, who works as a recycling engineer in the Environmental and Safety Management department at Kurz.

Decorative layer with no impact on recyclability

In elaborate tests, plastics with recycled content derived from decorated and undecorated plastic parts were compared. Firstly, plastics with different levels of recycled content were tested. Then previously recycled plastic was recycled again several times. The results were clear: recyclable plastics with the extremely thin Kurz coatings remained recyclable under a variety of test conditions.

To identify any possible influence of the decoration process, parts produced and decorated using two different injection moulding processes were tested: IMD (In-Mould Decoration), and the IMD Varioform technology developed by Kurz in which the parts are decorated, formed, back-injected and stamped directly within the injection mould. While only the decorative coating is transferred to the part in IMD, in the case of the IMD Varioform process the carrier foil of the coating also remains on the part. The carrier foil is therefore selected not only on the basis of technical criteria. The foil material is also tailored very specifically to the injection moulding material, to ensure it supports the recyclability of the plastic part.

Live processing and decoration of recycled materials

Visitors can obtain details, facts and figures on the study at the VDMA Pavilion, which will be located in an outdoor area in front of Hall 16. How the positive results can be implemented as a successful return and recycle system can be experienced live at the Engel booth B42 – C58 in Hall 15. Here plastic to which Kurz decorative foil has been applied will be used as recycled material and processed into a high-quality decorated part in the IMD Varioform process. This plastic part is itself recyclable. It also exhibits another characteristic that makes return and recycle systems so compelling: a brilliant, good as new appearance thanks to the applied surface design.