A recent report issued by Holland, Ohio-based Plastic Technologies Inc. (PTI) says there may be “an opportunity to create a market for noncolored problematic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles [that] does not exist today.”
PTI says the use of PET for packaging has seen “tremendous growth due to the material’s ability to offer lightweighting options, unique container designs, clarity, long shelf life and recyclability.” The company adds, though, that for the most part only noncolored and lightly tinted blue PET bottles are wanted by plastics reclaimers and reprocessors.
“The goal is to find a way to allow clear, but problematic, bottles that yellow when recycled to benefit an amber recycling stream,” says Frank Schloss of PTI. “It’s possible that yellowing can be offset by blending them with amber colored bottles to yield an acceptable amber color for reuse.” Schloss adds, however, that rigorous performance testing needs be done to understand how the incorporation of these PET bottles might affect an amber recycling stream.
PTI’s study examined whether if the relatively low volume of PET used for amber carbonated soft drink, beer and pharmaceutical PET packaging was to increase, items returned for recycling may reach a level significant enough to warrant their own processing stream. Additionally, PTI says, brand owners may soon be under pressure to demonstrate that these packages can be sustainably recycled in the production of new amber recycled-content bottles.
The use of PET to produce bottles and containers for oxygen sensitive products as well as carbonated beverages is limited to some degree by the barrier properties, says the firm. Unfortunately, says PTI, other than some plasma coating options, barrier solutions also present recycling challenges. Oxygen scavenger and multilayer barrier bottles present PET reclaimers with issues that can cause the rPET material to yellow after melt reprocessing.
As a result, many brand owners who want to support sustainability initiatives by producing truly recyclable bottles have shied away from some technical developments that could give them additional lightweighting advantages or longer shelf lives, according to PTI. The consumer products companies “realize these technologies would present problems to PET reclaimers and, in turn, harm the very type of rPET they wish to buy for their own reuse,” the firm says.
“Now is the time to begin addressing this issue,” says Schloss. “The goal is [finding] how best to handle an amber colored bottle stream, and other problematic PET bottles, so that value can be added to the recycling stream in the future.”
PTI describes itself as a source for preform and package design, package development, rapid prototyping, preproduction prototyping and material evaluation engineering for the plastic packaging industry.