A working group has identified a series of recycling-friendly design tips for manufacturers of full-wrap shrink sleeve labels.

Importantly, the suggestions, put forward by the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) Shrink Label Working Group in a new report, won’t ask label makers to ditch the full-wrap concept altogether. Instead, the working group says it has arrived at some design adjustments that will help PET bottle reclaimers identify and sort the labeled bottles.

“Recyclers were seeing more and more containers with full-wrap shrink sleeve labels contaminating their material,” said John Standish, technical director of APR, in a press release. “We formed a group to clearly identify steps that would allow brand owners to take advantage of these labels without creating a negative impact on the quality of the rPET stream.”

Those steps, outlined and fleshed out in the report, include:

  • Employ sleeve labels that will float in water and separate from PET flakes in a sink/float material separation step.
  • Employ printed labels where the label inks do not stain PET flakes in the wash/rinse step.
  • Use APR’s Critical Guidance Document for Shrink Labels for PET Bottles as a comprehensive laboratory test program to assess the impact of a label on recycling PET Bottles.
  • Where possible, use a sleeve label that leaves at least 20 percent of the PET bottle surface area exposed. This will allow the most accurate auto-sortation by the broadest range of color sorters installed at processing facilities.

By following the four steps listed above, APR says, bottle reclaimers won’t face the sizable challenges Standish highlighted in an in-depth article in the August 2014 issue of Plastics Recycling Update.

APR cautions the industry it will take some time to fully implement the group’s recommendations. “We cannot expect a widespread change in label technologies for at least two to three years’ time,” APR writes in the report, noting that existing labels are simply cheaper to produce at the moment and that brand owners have to honor their current contracts before making label changes.