I was fortunate enough to participate in the recent TLMI Technical Conference held in Chicago September 4-5, 2013. Attendance was high and converters were eager to learn what was new and more importantly what could help them in their business. Two particular lecture series were interesting: Sustainable Labeling Solutions and Thin is In.
For those always looking for a problem to solve, it turns out that 15% of recyclable PET and HDPE bottles are not being recycled due to an inability to separate the label from the recyclable material. This is happening at a time when recycled PET/HDPE is selling for more than new material as food manufactures drive the market by requiring 20-30% recycled material in their containers. The process is simple enough: tumbling to remove dirt, grinding and settling in wash tanks to separate the plastic from the label. Though simple, adhesives with hot melt glue are hard to remove, labels with the same density as bottle plastic do not separate and inks which bleed discolor the plastic can ruin the chances recycling. Tamsin Ettefagh of Envision Plastics gave an industry overview from the recycler’s point of view and emphasized what label manufacturers can do to make recycling both easier and produce higher yields for recyclable PET and HDPE, rPET/rHDPE.
Weilong Chiang of PepsiCo offered an overview of the technical aspects of separating labels from containers. He emphasized the use of PET label materials which have a different density than the container, which in turn allows for separation during the wash and settling.
Mitch Rackovan addressed the adhesive by talking about Avery Dennison’s new SR3031, which remains on the container during usage but is removed cleanly during recycling the PET material.
Finally, Jeff Sherwood tackled the ink component through describing the Flint Group’s extensive testing of inks for bleeding. UV and water-based inks were found to bleed about the same with yellow and black causing the most discoloring of the plastic. A UV varnish or lamination was found to significantly reduce the bleeding.
Selling labels to consumer package goods companies, CPG’s, is competitive. Selling a label which is easily removed during the recycling of the PET and HDPE can be a competitive advantage.
For more information visit The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers.
Photo by Mike Pruitt