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APR concerned over growing rate of full body sleeve labels affecting PET recycling

By Joe Whitworth , 02-Aug-2012
Last updated the 02-Aug-2012 at 13:26 GMT

An example of a full body sleeve label bottle for Nobel juice
An example of a full body sleeve label bottle for Nobel juice

The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) has warned the growing rate of full body sleeve labels on PET Bottles has grown from a novelty to a hindrance for recyclers.

The trade association has unveiled a document aimed at brand companies selling product without being concerned that packaging choices are being disposed instead of recycled.

The guidance aims to help packaging decision makers select label substrates and materials more compatible with PET bottle recycling than current labels.

It streamlines the testing for full body labels on PET bottles, omitting some tests as not relevant.

Currently, the majority of PET reclaimers have to remove the bottles from their recycling streams, after which the bottles are either stockpiled, re-baled and exported, or handled separately.

Growing labels = growing problem

David Cornell, APR Technical Director, told FoodProductionDaily.com that full body sleeve labels are not new, but use has been growing at a high rate for several years. 

“We have seen the occurrence go from a fairly low novelty to a prominent economic hindrance. 

“Recyclers cannot simply exclude processing bottles that are not readily sorted and that contaminate product.  Such exclusion costs money and hurts economic viability.” 

Cornell said the group estimates some bales have 10% of the bottles with full body sleeve labels. 

If those labels do not separate, then the PET recyclate can be contaminated with dryer-fouling, low temperature melting resins or the inks and decoration on the labels renders the PET no longer clear and colourless.   

“That means lower recycled PET sales price, lower product yield, increased raw material cost, and general economic peril.” 

Cornell said the use of the labels was increasing compared to polypropylene wrap around labels.

“Polypropylene labels are compatible with PET recycling processes as those processes were developed when only polypropylene wrap around labels were being used. 

“The full sleeve labels used commonly today are not compatible with the current processes and the current processes are not readily modified to accept the common sleeve labels.”

When asked how manufacturers obtain the guidance document, Cornell said: “We expect that some label companies will seek APR’s guidance recognition for meeting or exceeding the most stringent guidance in the protocols.   

“Doing so is voluntary, but such recognition is known among brand companies as a clear signal that an innovation is not a recycling problem.” 

NAPCOR backing 

NAPCOR backed the APR’s stance and said it was working with several large brands using the labelling technology, helping them understand the problem and find recycling compatible alternatives. 

The full sleeve labels impair 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. 

NAPCOR executive director Dennis Sabourin told this publication: “APR and NAPCOR work closely together, issues like this are addressed by both and the growing number presents a challenge to PET recyclers.  

“The issue is the detection of the bottle-base if the resin is marked by the label and if in the recycling process the full bottle label contaminates the PET recycling stream. 

“We do endorse a whole body material label that doesn’t affect the infrastructure as it is an attractive package but these labels are an increasing problem and get into the packaging stream.”