One of the main themes of the event, which took place from April 6-7, 2017, in Miami, FL, USA, dealt with how to effectively deal with PET recycling.
John Standish, technical director of The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), moderated a panel discussion with industry leaders that looked at different ways companies are trying to become more environmentally responsible. Kyle Strenski, business development manager of shrink sleeve films at UPM Raflatac, Carl Williams, technical associate at Eastman Chemical Company, Bob Schantz, business director of the Americas, KP Films, and Philippe Schottland, global director of functional materials technology at Sun Chemical, examined the basic steps in shrink sleeve recycling, as well as steps their companies have undertaken.
There are several objectives for brands and suppliers when dealing with shrink films. The packaging must meet market appeal, as well as filling line performance and distribution performance. The products need to be sustainable but also cost-effective.
Companies utilize several primary recycling steps to meet their green goals. The bottle must be prepared for recycling via a whole bottle wash and a de-labeling unit. The bottle then undergoes NIR sortation and color sortation before going into a hot caustic wash (roughly 85 degrees Celsius). The particles will then float and sink before melt filtration, which is around 280 degrees Celsius.
UPM Raflatac’s Strenski said that his company’s main problem is PET flake contamination, as flakes tend to be contaminated by label and ink residue. “There is no magic bullet, but we just want people to know there are multiple options, and we want them to find one that suits them and suits their bottle,” said Strenski.
UPM Raflatac has explored several options, whereby the adhesive comes off with the label, PET flakes sink while the label rises, deseaming, perforating and then removing the sleeve, and using PET shrink sleeves without glycol. One of the main challenges is getting converters to adopt these cultural changes to recycling.
Klockner Pentaplast, meanwhile, has developed ClearFloat. “We feel we’ve developed a film with the best clarity and that translates to high shelf appeal,” explains Schantz. “We have a film that is supported by the recycling community and people that will help at every step of the way.”
Sun Chemical and Eastman have formed a partnership to deal with recycling. Williams noted that PET bottle bales contain 5% shrink labeled PET bottles, and, “This is something we need to take care of.” In addition to color sorters, manual sorters have been employed to help sift out material from the recycling process. According to Williams, dolls and wingtip shoes have been found in sorting.
“It’s amazing what’s in these plants, and it’s a nasty process sometimes,” said Williams.
Deseaming is a sigifnicant part of the recycling process. This process is where the seam releases and the shrink label comes off of the bottle during wash. According to Sun Chemical’s Schottland, deseaming is compatible with ink technology used today for PET-G materials.
Sun Chemical, with its SunLam deseaming technology, is a recipient of the APR Responsible Innovation acknowledgment. In addition, Sun Chemical has seen several successful recycling trials at commercial facilities.
Schottland also noted several other trends in the sleeving industry. High resistance water-based inks will gain popularity, and inks will be increasingly optimized for LED curing. Digital printing on sleeves will also gain momentum, and there is the possibility that digital printing will take place directly on the containers.
Shrink sleeves on cans
Will Schretzman, vice president of packaging, Verst Group Logistics, said that can technology will gain prominence, especially in the craft beer sector. He defined craft beers as those that emanate from breweries producing six million barrels or less annually. Craft beer sales generally only account for 3% of total beer sales, too.
There is a trend, he said, with these beers moving to cans. Cans provide craft beer drinkers with portability for festivals and events. Additionally, portability is easier in a can than a glass, and there are more options available than at the brewery itself.
Another reason for the shift is the artistic design. “These amazing graphics with sleeves can transform beer into a multi-sensorial experience,” said Schretzman. “You’re able to do things just not possible with printed cans.”
Verst is currently running all of its shrink sleeves for cans on PET-G. Schretzman added that the industry predicts that 55% of craft beer is anticipated to move to cans. This will create on opportunities for shrink sleeve labeling.