First Nivea cosmetic bottles made of 100% recycled polyethylene

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Avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle: Against the background of this ethos, skincare company Beiersdorf started the Recyclist pilot project earlier this year. The development of Nivea cosmetic bottles made of 100% recycled polyethylene (PE) was realized in a collaborative project with the Fraunhofer IVV, Fraunhofer IWKS, and Pla.to GmbH.

Empty Beiersdorf cosmetic bottles in blue and white
Shredded cosmetic bottles made of PE
Blue Nivea Recyclist recycled polyethylene bottles
© Beiersdorf

Cosmetic bottles made of PE are usually only intended for single use. After use they are sent for recycling and generally end up as low-quality recyclates (downcycling) or used as a substitute fuel. Consequently we developed a comprehensive recycling concept for Beiersdorf with the aim of reusing high-quality PE recyclates to produce packaging for toiletries and cosmetic products.

Pilot project for more sustainable packaging

The starting PE material for the Recyclist pilot project was collected as part of an in-company campaign at Beiersdorf. All Beiersdorf employees in Hamburg were requested to collect empty Beiersdorf product bottles made of PE. In the space of two months about 2600 bottles were collected.

Recovery of type-pure PE recyclate

To pave the way for these bottles to be turned into as type-pure PE recyclate as possibe, a number of preliminary trials were undertaken. For example, we identified a suitable shredding technology for subsequent sorting of the ground product and evaluated washing processes to remove product residues and labels. The shredding, washing, and label removal were carried on a technical scale at Pla.to GmbH. The optical sorting of the ground product into HDPE was carried out at the Fraunhofer IWKS whilst the PE compounding was performed at our institute. From the recovered PE granulate about 2500 new bottles made of 100% PE Beiersdorf recyclate were manufactured and filled with product.

A step towards a circular economy

The Recyclist pilot project enabled Beiersdorf to demonstrate the viability of a circular economy for their PE cosmetic bottles and also the manufacture of sustainable packaging from PE recyclates under real conditions. With the goal of moving towards a circular economy, Beiersdorf is striving to raise the recyclate fraction of Beiersdorf plastic packaging in Europe to 25% by 2025. Simultaneously, only packaging materials that are 100 recyclable, compostable, or reusable will be used.

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