APR meeting includes focus on shrink-sleeve labels

APR meeting includes focus on shrink-sleeve labels

By Jerry Powell, Plastics Recycling Update

Oct. 14, 2013

A record 185 members of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers met in Greenville, South Carolina last week to discuss APR's ongoing projects, including the latest efforts of the organization to tackle the issue of shrink-sleeve labels on bottles.

APR’s five-month-old, multi-stakeholder shrink-sleeve working group includes 19 companies and has issued an interim report regarding the problems these labels pose to PET recycling. The report includes some key findings:

-PET reclamation systems with a wet front-end have more problems with shrink-sleeve labels than do dry front-end systems. The committee estimates about 58 percent of PET bottles collected in the U.S. go through wet systems.

-Six producers of sortation equipment are taking part in tests that assess the effects of these labels on PET resin and color sortation.

-A sub-group is working with four delabeler manufacturers (Amut, Herbold, Sorema and STF) to assess the effectiveness of these new systems.

-Another sub-group is determining the potential for floatable labels to address some of the shrink-sleeve label problems for PET reclaimers. A key concern is how a floatable label might affect the recycling of recovered caps.

-Committee attention is also being directed to ink-bleeding issues, as shrink-sleeve labels cause bleeding problems that are several times greater than ink bleeding from wrap-around labels.

The working group will issue its final report next March and committee members are optimistic a solution can be generated, which could potentially rely on a floatable label employing a dissolvable adhesive and with improved delabeling systems being employed at reclamation plants.

Research by Eastman Chemical Company and the Full-Wrap Label Consortium shows perforated labels can be removed by reclaimers at levels as high as 99.8 percent. A zipper-like, double-seam perforated label is now being tested through the beverage distribution system to assure its utility. In a sister project, Sun Chemicals is undertaking research to determine if shrink-sleeve labels could be coated with a foaming agent that would cause label scrap to float in a sink-floatation system.

Coca-Cola will likely introduce a floatable olefin-based shrink-sleeve label with micro perorations in November, according to speakers at the APR meeting. Recycling tests on the label suggest it has no substantial impact on the recycling process. After a three-month market test on a holiday season beverage product involving Walmart, Coke intends to use the label throughout its beverage packaging portfolio beginning in 2014.

In another advancement, executives at Spear offered an assessment of a new pressure-sensitive label technology that is compatible with PET bottle reclamation. Pressure-sensitive applications represent about half of the North American label industry (shrink-sleeve labels are just 6 percent of the label market), although pressure-sensitive labels have only a small share of the beverage market. The new label, which is designed to come off of the bottle in a hot wash, has been tested using APR’s critical guidance protocol.

Also discussed was Berry Plastics' float-sink method to separate HDPE and PP using a proprietary, food-safe fluid that is produced from readily available materials. The separation media has a .920 density which is between heavier-density PE (.940 to .965) and lower-density PP (virgin at .900 to colored PP at .915). The firm is now seeking new bottle reclamation and equipment partners to develop the recycling technology. Berry Plastics is a publicly traded, $4.8 billion per year packaging maker and is probably the world’s largest consumer of PP.

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