Green Gift Cards and Foilco, working together and both committed to making a difference

31 Mar 2020 • 8 minute read

Adding embellishments to a card design for aesthetic or security reasons sometimes raises questions from our customers about the environmental impact. Namely, ‘Will adding foil impact the green credentials of our cards?’ To ensure we can respond to this question with – ‘no, there is no negative impact’ we work with Foilco as leaders in this space to help us. 

foilco-certification.jpgMany people may not know but foil embellishments used on product packaging is recyclable. The metallic ‘effect’ of foil can sometimes be mistaken by end users, believing that the foil renders the product non - recyclable but as long as the substrate which the foil is applied is itself a recyclable material, then the product can still be included within the process. Our cards are of course recyclable.


The process to apply the foil effect to one of our cards is the same as packaging. The hot stamping foil is such a thin layer that it dissipates in the repulping process during recycling. 

The only environmental challenge of foiling a paperboard product is in fact the ‘carrier’ in which the foil lays before it is applied, which is made of a polyester and is a contributor to UK Landfill.


Foilco’s initiative, the first within the foil industry, ensures the polyester carriers no longer end up at landfill but they are in fact reused as an energy fuel, contributing toward sustainable energy supplies. This is achieved by ensuring all carrier waste is collected at the point of application and returned to Foilco.

The Foilco scheme is the first to be accredited (and certified) as Zero2LandFill, in line with the Prismm Zero Foil 2 Landfill Scheme. The Scheme is run by Prismm Environmental Limited and sponsored by the British Printing Industry Federation (BPIF).

Key points about foiling on our cards

  • Foil is a dry, solvent free method of printing
  • Foil used on recyclable material can be re-pulped in the normal waste streams Zero –the amount of foil waste we send to landfill
  • Waste is used as a sustainable energy fuel


The process

Foil waste (foil, polyester and cardboard) created as a result of re-reeling/slitting/re-work of foil, is ‘bailed’ into cubes. These bails are delivered to a specialist plant that shreds the bails into extra fine shavings. Those shavings are then used at the plant (due to the higher calorific value of polyester) as an energy fuel (incinerated) that gets transferred into sustainable energy.

Outcomes

  • Reductions in transport use
  • Elimination of foil waste from UK landfill
  • Re-useable energy fuel resource
  • Foiled products are recyclable (as long as the material/substrate foiled was originally recyclable).
  • As part of the ZeroFoil2Landfill process derivatives are neutralized/treated
  • The ash created by the process is then used in agriculture and farming

Foil & the environment

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Will hot stamping foil affect recycling of paper and board?
Foil provides a high-quality method of printing using very thin coatings. The coating weight is often less than conventional inks. Therefore, board can be recycled in conventional board recycling plants. As stated in PIRA Report: September 2008 – Tested samples sheets caused no problems in the re-pulping process.

Q2. What is the metal in the foil?
The bright effect of metallic foil is achieved by an ultra-thin coating of aluminium. This does not affect recycling processes.

Q3. Why can you not recycle the coatings on the polyester film?
The coatings are so thin that the cost is far higher than using new material. Attempting to recover the coatings has a greater detrimental effect on the environment than processing the film by slow release incineration.

Q4. Are there any other films that could be used to make hot stamping foil?
A strong, heat stable film is required to produce foil. Using polyester enables much lighter, thinner films to be used.

Q5. I have seen cartons covered in metallic effects. Is this foil?
Some metallic effects in large areas are created by using a metallised film adhered to board. The resulting board and film are not suitable for recycling, as the film cannot be separated from the board. In addition, heavy weights of ink are used to blank out the metallic area where not required.

Using hot stamping foil means you will only put the metallic effect where you need it, ruling out the need for extra inks. This will also ensure that the board is also repulpable.

Q6. What do I do with the left-over foil after I have printed from it?
Small quantities of foil can be safely included in the normal waste streams.

Q7. How do I minimise my own foil waste?
We supply foil in customer specific widths (design to manufacture), therefore minimising the left-over foil.

Q8. Why would I use black, white and other pigment foils instead of ink?
Foil provides greater opacity of print in a single pass than conventional inks. Printing of inks may require several passes, particularly for white, black and dark colours which would require a greater use of energy and materials.

Q9. Is slow release incinerating the waste film safe for the environment?
Incineration takes place in controlled conditions. Any ash can be spread on farmland as valuable soil nutrients. Also, the process does not have any detrimental effects to the environment or the atmosphere.

Degradable and biodegradable aspects of hot stamping foil
Hot Stamping foils are created by gravure printing extremely thin layers of inks. Metallic foils have an even thinner layer of aluminium.

The wax-based release layer is considered to be biodegradable.

The lacquer layer, aluminium and adhesives layers are degradable, due to the very thin layers. 

Materials printed by hot foil stamping are repulpable in normal paper and board recycling. The print is achieved by no more weight than inks and therefore meets the requirements of recycling methods.


To learn more about how we can help you be more creative with your card designs using foil, please just ask.

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Introducing our range of plastic-free cards

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