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PET group endorses shrink label recycling protocol



Published July 31, 2012
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The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) has endorsed the newly published Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers’ (APR) guidance document pertaining to full wrap shrink sleeve labels for PET bottles, “Sleeve Label Substrate for PET Bottles Critical Guidance Document.” This testing and guidance protocol document is intended to provide brand owners and manufacturers the means to evaluate the effects of these labels on the PET recycling stream.

“Cost-effective, recycling friendly full wrap labeling technology is currently available for some applications, with more being developed by companies focused on providing sustainable technologies to their customers. NAPCOR became squarely involved in this issue, not just because of the adverse economic impacts these labels are currently having on PET reclaimers, but also because of their potential for rapid growth across brands and product categories,” says NAPCOR Executive Director Dennis Sabourin. “We applaud the APR’s release of this protocol.”

As brand owners increasingly embrace these full wrap shrink labels as an attractive option for product differentiation, what were nuisance volumes just a few years ago are now reaching near-crisis proportions for PET reclaimers, according to Sabourin. Full wrap shrink labels are generally disruptive to both the sorting and processing of post consumer PET.

In an effort to inform and educate brand owners as to the severity of the issue for PET recycling, NAPCOR is in communication with several of the largest brands currently using this labeling technology, and is working to help them understand the scope of the problem and to find recycling compatible alternatives. The APR protocol will provide a more uniform platform for this ongoing work.

Currently, the majority of PET reclaimers—particularly those producing recycled PET material suitable for use in new containers—have to remove these bottles from their PET recycling streams, after which the bottles are either stockpiled, re-baled and exported, or handled separately. All of these options cause significant economic impact, the result of both the additional handling and the potential de-valuation of the PET bales.

Full wrap shrink labels affect the PET reclamation process at several junctures: their full coverage impairs resin identification by automated equipment used to sort recyclables by material type; and the full-wrap shrink labels cannot be removed from containers by traditional prewash technology. However, the most problematic of these labels are those that sink in water along with the PET during processing, thus creating more contamination than can be acceptably removed during the conventional PET recycling process. (More detail can be found in NAPCOR’s position statement on this topic, http://www.napcor.com/pdf/NAPCORfullwrap.pdf.)

The new guidance document forms part of the APR’s larger Champions for ChangeTM Program, which includes design for recycling and critical issues information. It will provide the basis to better determine and address potential full wrap shrink label impacts, ultimately giving brand owners the assurance that their bottles will be recycled in an acceptable and efficient fashion. The document is available at http://www.plasticsrecycling.org/

Founded in 1987, NAPCOR is the trade association for the PET plastic packaging industry in the United States and Canada. NAPCOR is dedicated to the promotion of the PET package; to overcoming hurdles to the successful recycling of PET; and to the communication of the attributes of the PET container as a sustainable package.


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