Printing Ink’s Potential Impact on Recycling of Product Packaging

As the demand for recycled material grows and regulations that mandate recyclable product packaging increase, ensuring the recyclability of your product is becoming critical. The main component of the packaging is not all that needs to be considered to ensure recyclability. Whether it is the adhesive label on a glass bottle or an aluminum barrier within a flexible film pouch, the type, color, and number of materials, and the ability to separate them all play a role in the packaging’s recycling capability.

The recyclability of a product’s packaging is evaluated by the final physical package. This includes packaging that may have been colored, labeled, branded, or printed with any form of ink or colorant. When evaluating the recyclability of packaging, all types of inks and colorants play a role in determining its recyclability. Depending on where the ink is located on or in the packaging, washing off or deinking is a possible way to increase the likelihood of the packaging being accepted for recycling. This can be achieved either by consumers who remove a label before curbside recycling or at a recycling site where a code can be removed through a deinking wash.

While there are various guidelines regarding what is considered acceptable to recyclers, harmonization is lacking between them. According to the European Ink Printing Association (EuPIA), the following can be used as printing ink guidance for acceptable packaging recyclability:

  1. Printing inks should comply with the EuPIA exclusion policy.
    The EuPIA Exclusion Policy will ensure that the components of the ink do not contain any hazardous raw materials that would introduce hazardous impurities into the recycled material. With variable guidance on acceptable quality of recycled material, it is best to ensure that any printing ink used is not hazardous to human health.
  2. The guidelines recommend applying as little ink as possible, limiting the share of ink to <5% by weight for easy recyclability.
    The limit of 5% by weight is a general guideline to evaluate the threshold of when the colorant will begin to cause greater risk of impacting the quality of the product to be recycled.
  3. There is a preference for lighter ink colors.
    Lighter shades of ink will have less impact on the overall discoloration potential of the recycled content created from the product over time. Depending on the type of packaging, the printed portion may be separable, making the recycling of the packaging easier. This is not always the case, such as with flexible films where colored layers cannot be separated.

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Videojet product coding impact

Printed codes are often just a small fraction of the overall printed portion of packaging.  The continuous inkjet, thermal inkjet, and other Videojet inks for coding need to be included in the total printing ink weight, along with gravure, flexographic, offset, and other printing techniques used to provide the branding and other key information on your product. When compared to the overall weight of the ink used for the packaging, the percent of Videojet ink is likely very small. Packaging with Videojet printed codes have successfully been recycled in the past, and we do not expect the coding application provided by our products to largely impact the recycling of products.  The calculation for evaluating when there would be an impact after recycling packaging with Videojet codes is a challenge because of the variable lengths and types of codes printed on thousands of products.

While a possible overall solution for all printing inks may be to use lighter shades, Videojet printing inks are designed to be darker in shade to increase performance and readability of critical information. Considering the small impact of a printed code, choosing a lighter shade for coding will not dramatically lower the rate of discoloration of the recycled content. Using lighter shades as an action to limit discoloration would be more beneficial when considering large surface areas of printing.

To help ensure our printing inks do not inhibit the recycling process, Videojet offers EuPIA Exclusion Policy compliant printing inks. Videojet inks designed to meet the EuPIA Exclusion Policy are either marked as such on marketing documents, or they can be determined by contacting the Videojet Fluids Support team.


It is recommended to always consult local recyclers and regulations to best understand what is acceptable in the communities you serve and the impact of the types of materials, brand imaging, and colors used for the packaging of your product.  Each country, state or multi-organizational group may have their own level of acceptable quality for recycling.  Understanding where your products will be sold and the packaging’s recyclability is critical to supporting the circular economy.

Videojet Fluids Support can assist in calculating the weight percent of dried Videojet ink printed on your packaging. Please contact for more information.  This information can help you determine your overall printing ink weight value when added to any ink printed via gravure, offset, flexography, digital or any other form of ink you use on your packaging.

To the best of our knowledge, the information contained herein is accurate. However, neither Videojet Technologies Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries assumes any liability whatsoever for the accuracy or completeness of the information herein.

For more information on our sustainability commitments, visit 👉 Videojet Supporting Sustainability – United States