Formed in June last year, the APR Working Group represented all segments of the recycling industry and label supply chain, including PET reclaimers, brand owners, material suppliers, equipment vendors, and testing labs.
Its focus was the growing technical issues associated with recycling containers with full wrap shrink sleeve labels.
“Recyclers were seeing more and more containers with full wrap shrink sleeve labels contaminating their material,” said John Standish, technical director, APR.
“We formed a group to clearly identify steps that would allow brand owners to take advantage of these labels without creating a negative impact on the quality of the rPET stream.”
Byron Geiger, president, Custom Polymers PET/chairman, APR Technical Programs said the labels serve as a great marketing tool, but they render the container non-recyclable.
“Sorting technology was unable to identify the resin type of the container if it had a full wrap label, thereby not separating it out appropriately, resulting in a contaminated stream of material,” he added.
“It was a significant problem.”
APR Critical Guidance
Recommendations of the Working Group include: using sleeve labels that will float in water and separate from PET flakes in a sink/float material separation step and printed labels where the label inks do not stain PET Flakes in the wash/rinse step.
It also suggested using APR’s Critical Guidance Document for Shrink Labels for PET Bottles as a laboratory test program to assess the impact of a label on recycling PET Bottles.
Where possible, manufacturers are urged to use a sleeve label that leaves at least 20% of the PET bottle surface area exposed. This will allow the most accurate auto-sortation by the broadest range of installed color sorters.
Although the problem is not completely solved, Standish said several label manufacturers have worked with APR to create label stock that meet its guidelines for removal of the labels in the wash system, which reduces the problem.
“The market is responding and working with APR to create guidelines to continue using a full wrap label that meets the needs of the recycler,” said Standish.
“As the market evolves, we are hope more companies adopt this label innovation for use with their products.”
He added this was one small step in addressing a larger label problem with containers but the efforts to date are optimistic and label manufacturers, brand owners and recyclers are meeting the challenge.
The next APR meeting is from October 7-9, at the Westin in Downtown San Diego, California.