Today several brand owners have products on the market in 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) containers. However, making the switch from virgin PET to RPET requires careful sourcing because the quality of the recycled material can affect color and haze, and some virgin PET has been enhanced to deliver better barrier, ultraviolet light blocking or coefficient of friction.
“You need to ensure the intrinsic viscosity (IV) of the RPET is close to the IV of the virgin material,” advises Frank Schloss, vice president of Plastic Technologies, Inc., Holland, OH, a plastics packaging consultancy and maker of RPET pellets through its subsidiary, Phoenix Technologies International, LLC, Bowling Green, OH. But, “If you are purchasing a specific grade of PET resin that has unique properties, than those unique properties may not be duplicated in the recycled material,” he warns.
In addition, food and beverage applications require an RPET that has a Letter of Nonobjection from the Food and Drug Administration, Washington, DC, to confirm its acceptability for food contact for the product and its filling conditions.
Until recently RPET cost less than virgin PET. It now costs more and pricing is experiencing considerable volatility. This could be a short-lived situation – or not.
Although 100% RPET is feasible, a 25% RPET/25% virgin PET blend is more common today. “The availability of PCR is not unlimited, so packagers often use a lower percent to have some [RPET] in more bottles,” explains David Cornell, technical director for the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), Washington, DC.
RPET may require some process adjustments on container making equipment, a higher level of melt filtering to remove non-PET particulate or even additives to impart the desired properties.
However, according to Cornell, the resulting RPET container should be the same weight as its virgin PET predecessor and perform as a drop-in replacement on the filling line. It also poses no problems to recycling in the PET waste stream.
Collection program enables cap-to-cap recycling
In what is believed to be a first for the industry, Aveda, a maker of plant-based cosmetics and personal-care products based in Blaine, MN, starts a cap recycling program. Aveda hopes to use the material in its closures and reduce the number of caps that end up in landfills or as litter and pose a hazard to wildlife. Aveda relaunched its first shampoo with a dispensing closure made of 100% recycled polypropylene. Limited Edition Vintage Clove Shampoo debuted in September 2008 and also uses post-consumer recycled (PCR) content for the bottle, which is made of 98% PCR high-density polyethylene (supplied byTricorBraun), reportedly a record level for a colored bottle for a beauty product. The Aveda Caps Recycling Program accepts closures from water, carbonated soft drink, detergent and shampoo bottles. So far, it has diverted 50,000 pounds of closures from landfills. Company salons and stores serve as drop-off points for the closures. Aveda also encourages schools to participate.
PCR bottle gives liquid meds alternative to virgin PET
An oval bottle made from 100% post-consumer-recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) offers an alternative to traditional virgin PET for liquid prescription drugs. Environmental impact shrinks still further if the RPET container is recycled. Containers meet the same standards as virgin PET bottles including light transmission and moisture permeation requirements set by the United States Pharmacopeia, Rockville, MD. Containers also comply with the child-resistant/senior-friendly protocol requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, DC; and resin standards set by the Food and Drug Administration, Washington, DC. Seven sizes, 2-, 3-, 4-, 6-, 8-, 12- and 16-ounce, provide the right volume for virtually any prescription. “Pharmacists and consumers have shown a preference for packaging using recycled material,” reports Pat O’Connell, vp of Sales at the manufacturer. “Our new recycled ovals will provide differentiation, allowing pharmacies to market themselves as environmentally friendly.”
GPI sets December 10 as Recycle Glass Day
Recycle Glass Day on December 10, 2008, promotes glass recycling and presents glass as a sustainable packaging material. Virtual event organized by the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), Alexandria, VA, explains how glass recycling saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. It also provides glass container recycling facts as well as ideas for families to use to recycle more glass containers. A Carbon Calculator shows how much energy is saved by recycling glass containers. According to GPI, for every 1% of recycled glass, energy costs drop 0.5%; for example, a 10% increase in recycled glass use decreases fossil fuel emissions 2.5% and cuts particulate emissions 7%. The event also includes a YouTube video competition for packaging science students at Cal Poly University, Clemson University, Michigan State University, Mohawk College, Rochester Institute of Technology, San Jose State University, University of Wisconsin-Stout and University of Florida. Winners earn $10,000 or $5,000 for themselves and $5,000 for their school. Event sponsors include Owens-Illinois, Inc., Perrysburg, OH; Saint-Gobain Containers Co., Muncie, IN; Gallo Glass, Modesto, CA; Vitro Packaging, Inc., Plano TX.
Segetis, Inc., Minneapolis, MN, produces binary monomers from nonfood agricultural and forestry feedstocks. Resulting biopolymers and bio-based surfactants, plasticizers and adhesives offer cost and performance similar to petrochemical-based alternatives. The green chemistry company recently received $15 million in funding from Khosla Ventures, Menlo Park, CA, and hired James Stoppert as president and chief executive officer. Stoppert comes to Segetis from Cargill, where he led the bioproducts business unit. His background includes more than 35 years in the chemical industry, including a stint as chief executive officer of Cargill Dow LLC (now NatureWorks LLC), Minnetonka, MN, a maker of polylactide.Back to Top >
A draft ordinance has been issued by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Beijing, China. It not only governs the size, volume, material and cost of packaging manufactured in China, but carries stiff penalties for noncompliance including fines, confiscation of product and revocation of operating licenses. Scheduled to take effect on 1 January 2009, the Limit Excessive Packaging of Goods Regulations permit multilayer packaging only when it can be separated easily for recycling. “In beverage packaging it will encourage the use of shrink sleeves at the expense of the pressure-sensitive (P-S) label,” notes Stuart Hoggard, author of China’s Restriction on Excessive Packaging – Commentary and Analysis, a report published by EP Resources Pte Ltd., Singapore. “The implications of this one clause will be tremendous; between 2003-2005 China’s P-S label market grew at rates of more than 35%. Much of that sector will be required to retool,” he adds. The regulations also require package producers and designers perform a lifecycle assessment when selecting packaging materials and processes. Designs must follow Mandatory Specifications and Standards, which are still being drafted. The first Mandatory Standard issued, which covers food, tea, cosmetics and certain beverages, limits free or void space (porosity) between the product and outer packaging layer to less than 55%, sets the maximum number of packaging layers at three, excluding initial packaging and limits packaging cost to less than 15% of the product’s sale value. “This law will have an immediate impact on the food, beverage and cosmetic sector, but as more Mandatory Standards are issued, it will affect the entire packaging supply chain: Brand owners, package designers, converters and even retailers bundling products as part of a promotion, will all have to comply,” concludes Hoggard. The report, available at www.PackWebasia.com, contains an impact analysis and includes the full text of the regulations in English as well as the original Chinese. Cost is €120 (US$176).
‘Green’ attitudes don’t always extend to point of sale
Although consumers may claim concern about the environment, they frequently make purchasing choices on other criteria, including price. “This inconsistency is the real challenge for marketers and retailers in order for them to fully understand the nuances of green consumers and how to market to them effectively,” says Robert I. Tomei, president of Consumer and Shopper Insights at Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), Chicago, IL. “Given some of the obvious issues that consumers face in today’s market, such as high gas prices, higher unemployment rates, and concerns over the financial investment community, it will be increasingly…challenging for many consumers to incorporate their sensitivity to the environment into their actual behavior, particularly for those ‘green’ products that may cost more to purchase.” A survey of shoppers, conducted for the Food Standards Agency, London, UK, yielded similar results. It found 66% of shoppers base purchasing decisions on economics (including food quality), while 23% worry about social issues (including healthiness of food). Only 10% assign priority to environmental criteria.
Concentrated plant-based Essentials cleaners from Arm & Hammer, Princeton, NJ, rely on refillable packaging. An Essentials starter kit consists of a shrink-sleeve-labeled, 1.2-ounce, high-density polyethylene bottle of Essentials Cleaner & Degreaser, MultiSurface Cleaner or Glass Cleaner shrink-banded/spot-glued to an empty 1-quart polyethylene terephthalate (PET) spray bottle. Front and back pressure-sensitive labels on the PET bottle maintain brand identity and provide mixing instructions. To prepare the product, the consumer removes the trigger sprayer from the quart bottle, fills it with water to the fill line and inserts the concentrate cartridge. A fitment in the neck of the quart bottle slices open the induction seal on the cartridge to dispense the concentrate into the container. When the cartridge is empty, the consumer removes it and reapplies the trigger sprayer. Refill cartridges sell in blister-packed pairs. The refill system represents an 80% reduction in packaging compared to two 32-ounce spray bottles of non-concentrated cleaner and significantly reduces shipping weight since household cleaners typically contain up to 95% water. Arm & Hammer estimates the refillable bottles can be reused at least seven times or roughly 2.5 years, consuming 82% fewer trees per ton and 82% less petroleum per ton than traditional cleaners. Shipping fewer spray bottles removes approximately 70,000 trucks from the road, saves more than 18 million gallons of fuel and eliminates 40 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Consumers save money too since a refill costs up to 25% less than a non-concentrated product.Back to Top >