End wall circularity


Back to the future – the second life of polystyrene end walls

Video: How we reuse polystyrene end walls

Out of sight, out of mind – will no longer apply. At least not for tesa, when it comes to the question of what happens to our high-quality packaging once the product it protects has safely arrived at our customers. In 2023, our HQ Packaging Development in collaboration with the local team at tesa site Suzhou started a pilot project: Hundreds of thousands of industrial adhesive tape roles, which are shipped from the warehouse in Shanghai to customers, could potentially be re-used in a cycle.  

Back to the “beginning”: Reuse of polystyrene end walls

To ensure the safety and protection of our products, we utilize robust packaging made from high-quality materials for both storage and shipping purposes. The large industrial rolls of various heights are packed in slim cardboard sleeves and strapped the top and bottom with pure polystyrene (PS) end caps. A fully assembled package can weigh up to 70 kg, highlighting the essential durability of the chosen packaging materials. This durability is also an advantage for recyclability; high-quality PS elements exhibit minimal or no damage during transportation. "That's why we came up with the idea of establishing a circularity program for the polystyrene end walls made," explains Markus Neugart, Head of Packaging Development Industry. Experience has shown that the rejection rate during the sorting of used end walls is below 5 %.

On average, out of 100 end walls, 95 or more can be reused in a circular model, while the remaining end walls are recycled.

The end walls are made of polystyrene (PS) and seal the two open ends of the corrugated sleeve. One serves as the base on which the roll of tape is placed. The second end wall acts as a lid. The roll, additionally protected by a PE film tube, is securely held between these two closures. PS is a pure plastic known for its high impact resistance, making it exceptionally strong and durable, unlike materials such as PE or polypropylene. As a result, PS parts are ideal for reuse.

It does not always have to be “new”

Following this principle, our tesa site in Suzhou and the processing centers took up tesa's initiative and began systematically collecting end walls as part of a pilot project in 2020. In 2023, the project was expanded to include the two largest customers in the Greater China region: Now, whenever there are three pallets of end walls, a phone call to tesa is all it takes to arrange for collection. 

To date, an average of more than 2,000 end walls have been collected each month, which amounts to about 25,000 in 2023 alone and about 62,500 since the project began. The next goal is to involve all key customers in the Greater China region, with the aim of collecting more than 100,000 end walls per year. "The start has been so promising that we are now highly motivated to implement measures to involve additional customers in China in the project, and we are already considering expanding the project to Europe in the next phase," says Abhinav Barnwal, Head of Product Solutions at tesa.

End walls are used in tesa plants to safely pack large industrial adhesive tape rolls for transport
End walls are used in tesa plants to safely pack large industrial adhesive tape rolls for transport

There is more to it - or rather less

Innovative ideas are a positive step forward, and there's always room for more. Looking ahead, our goal is to have all new end walls purchased to meet our needs made from 100% recycled plastic by the end of 2024.

Introducing a circular system: Protecting and reusing end walls
Introducing a circular system: Protecting and reusing end walls

At the same time, our developers in Hamburg and China are already thinking about another follow-up project: reducing the use of plastic in Logroll packaging: In the medium term, the top end wall will be replaced by a more sustainable material, such as paper or fiber-based material, without compromising safety and quality. 

Doing the seemingly impossible? That's how innovation works. And innovation, in the case of logroll packaging, means evolution: from fossil-based plastic, to its reuse, to its replacement with recycled material, to the elimination of plastic through the use of more sustainable materials derived from renewable resources.

Concrete steps, know-how and commitment: For tesa, circularity is more than just a concept.

Find out more about tesa’s sustainability strategy

We do: Push circularity

tesa will contribute to the circular economy and use resources as carefully as possible. First and foremost, this involves avoiding waste. Where that is not possible, we reduce it. Where waste is unavoidable, we seek to reuse or recycle it by various means. By 2025, we want to eliminate all landfill disposal of production-related waste.

tesa will further invest significantly in the further development of solvent-free and energy-efficient production technology and capacity. The facilities on which we currently coat with solvents are to be technically upgraded so that the solvents are fully recovered at the end of the process and thus remain in the cycle.