More Plastic Packs Contain Recycled Content

Posted on 7/28/2015 10:10:41 AM By Hallie Forcinio

Just a few years ago, plastic packaging was only made from virgin resin. However, as curbside recycling programs expanded and more plastic containers were collected, interest grew in replacing virgin resin with postconsumer-recycled (PCR) material. Including recycled content was technically challenging at first. The recycled material, especially at high levels, often caused aesthetic or performance issues.

Today, we’ve largely overcome those problems, and we’re seeing recycled content in a growing number of rigid containers as well as thermoformed packaging such as produce containers, clamshells, trays and blisters. In fact, 100 percent recycled content is possible with no loss in looks or performance. This is true even for food packaging that must meet FDA’s stringent food-contact requirements.

Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to test containers, labels and closures to ensure all materials, including adhesives, perform well in use. Label materials, adhesives and other package components also should be carefully specified to eliminate any materials that would contaminate the recyclate and render it unusable. The Association for Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers in Washington, DC offers several guides to help design for recyclability and specify recycling-compatible label materials and adhesives: Selecting Pressure Sensitive Labels for PET Packaging and Selecting Shrink Sleeve Labels for PET Packaging.

In addition to creating markets for recycled material and a more circular process, using recycled content offers other benefits. Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G) in Cincinnati, OH, for example, anticipates significantly reduced energy consumption as a result of its Fabric Care business’s commitment to use up to 50 percent post-consumer-recycled content in 230 million containers each year.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers dominate the liquid laundry detergent market, but other segments that favor HDPE containers also are beginning to insist on recycled content and will help push up demand for recycled HDPE (rHDPE). For example, Sunwarrior in Washington, UT, has switched from bags to cartons to square rHDPE containers for its plant-based protein powder and supplements. The rHDPE containers are recyclable, cube-efficient, easy to carry and re-closable.

Although we’re seeing growing use of rHDPE, there’s even more action in boosting levels of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) in packaging. To address this growing demand, PTI - Phoenix Technologies International in Bowling Green, OH, has added a melt-formed pelletized grade of its LNO™ c rPET resin to meet the needs of users who require truckload or tanker shipments. Acceptable for most food-contact uses, the LNO™ c rPET delivers the low acetaldehyde level needed for sensitive products like bottled water.

PTI also is expanding overall rPET capacity with the installation of an $18 million wash line. Scheduled for completion by the end of 2015, the 50-million-pound-per-year line makes it possible for PTI to produce clean flake in-house instead of purchasing it or contracting a third-party wash operation.

During the first half of 2015, the first PET containers with 100 percent PCR content began moving into the liquid laundry detergent aisle with the introduction of 4X Concentrated Laundry Detergent from Method Products in San Francisco, CA. Testing by Amcor Rigid Plastics in Ann Arbor, MI, producer of the container, confirmed there would be no issues with product/package compatibility or color stability. Amcor also refined the container design to ensure part release from the mold, accommodate the filling process and maintain proper alignment of the pour spout/cap with the container neck. Compared to a virgin PET container, the 100 percent rPET bottle reduces life-cycle energy consumption 78 percent and shrinks its carbon footprint 35 percent, according to Amcor’s ASSET™ life-cycle assessment tool.

Phoenix Technologies wash line

 (ASC15Jul-Phoenix Technologies wash line)

Producing clean flake on an in-house wash line will increase rPET capacity at PTI and allow process integration and improvement.

pet filled

(Caption: ASC15Jul-Method4XinPET-Photo 1 - Filled)

Method Products debuts the first 100 percent PCR PET container in the liquid laundry detergent aisle with the introduction of its 4X Concentrated Laundry Detergent. 

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