Maximizing Sustainability, Volume 1, Issue 3

Maximizing Sustainability

Volume 1, Issue 3

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Recycling/Recycled Content

PET bottles boost recycled content to 100%

Two commercial introductions prove it’s feasible to injection blow mold containers from 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) resin without the performance degradation once thought to be inevitable.

Since 2000, Innocent Ltd., London, UK, has transitioned from virgin PET containers to 100% RPET bottles for its ready-to-drink refrigerated smoothies with stops at 25% RPET and 50% RPET along the way. The fully recyclable 100% RPET bottle is 20% lighter and reduces the product’s carbon footprint 55% versus the original virgin PET container. In addition, it’s expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 1,000 tons in 2008, a figure that should increase when the company’s UK-based bottle maker begins sourcing RPET resin in the UK instead of Europe.

Recycled content in the high-density polyethylene cap and paper label for the 250-milliliter bottle remains a challenge. Recycled content in the cap negatively impacted its performance. However, the company continues development work.

Paper labels with 100% recycled content also proved unsuitable, so the company specifies 25% recycled content/75% virgin content certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council, Bonn, Germany, which ensures the wood fiber used to make the paper for the labels comes from sustainably managed forests.

The second 100% RPET bottle introduction also occurred in the UK. It’s a half-liter bottle for Ribena fruit drinks from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Brentford, UK. GSK also is working on 100% recycled content labels and caps.

Meanwhile it specifies a shrink sleeve label that separates easily from the bottle for recycling.

Waterless recycling process yields food-grade RPET
A number of recyclers produce food-grade recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET), but only one, ECO2 Plastics, Inc., San Francisco, CA, runs a water-less process developed in conjunction with Honeywell FM&T, Kansas City, MO, and the US Department of Energy, Washington, DC.

The system relies on a biodegradable solvent plus liquid carbon dioxide in a closed-loop system that reuses the cleaning agents. The operation also passes material through optical sorting, inductive metal detection and aspiration devices to minimize contaminants. Testing by The National Food Laboratory, Inc., Dublin, CA, and an analysis by Keller & Heckman, Washington, DC, a law firm with expertise in plastic packaging regulations, indicate the waterless recycling process produces RPET suitable for use in food-contact articles at levels up to 100%.

ECO2 is preparing to file a formal application with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Washington, DC, and anticipates receiving a letter of no objection from the agency for Conditions of Use ranging from C (hot-filled or pasteurized above 150 F) through H (frozen or refrigerated storage: ready-prepared foods intended to be reheated in container at time of use).

The company currently produces RPET at its recycling plant in Riverbank, CA.

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Source Reduction

Redesigned jar/closure cuts package weight

A redesigned container/closure combination gives consumers a wider diameter neck for easier serving, while reducing overall package weight by 20%. CanGro Foods, Inc., Toronto, ON, Canada, which packages six varieties of Del Monte fruit, achieves this win-win scenario with a 540-millilitre (19-ounce) oriented polypropylene jar from Graham Packaging Co., LP, York, PA, topped by an 82-millimetre closure from Bapco Closures, Ltd., Guildford, Surrey, UK.

The three-piece closure consists of a foil membrane, a base ring with pull ring attached to the inner wall and threads around the upper outer circumference, and a threaded overcap. The assembly snaps in place over a bead on the container so the membrane can be induction sealed to the neck finish. To access contents the first time, the consumer twists off the overcap, pulls the ring to peel away the membrane seal, spoons out a serving of fruit and recloses the container with the overcap.

Lightweighting stems primarily from the absence of threads and reduction of wall thickness in the neck finish area of the container. The Del Monte products are pasteurized, but the closure design also works with aseptic, hot-filled or retorted products. On the packaging line, transition to the three-piece closure requires addition of a cap orienter, a cap applicator and an induction welding unit, either inline or rotary, depending on speed requirements.

PET water bottles continue to lose weight.
There are no commercial applications yet, but when there are, an 8.8-gram bottle produced on equipment from Krones, AG, Neutraubling, Germany, will probably rank as the world’s lightest 500-millilitre polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle for water. A significantly smaller neck ring and thinner wall combine to achieve the weight savings for the container, which is up to 45% lighter than other half-liter PET bottles for water.

The 26-millimetre modified PCF 26 P neck finish accommodates an SK 26/15FB lw closure from Bericap GmbH and Co. KG, Budenheim, Germany.

Krones has tested PET from a variety of suppliers and has found acceptable performance with resins from Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, TN; Equipolymers Global GmbH, Horgen, Switzerland; M&G Group, Tortona, Italy; Novapet, SA, Zaragoza, Spain; as well as colorant from Holland Colours NV, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands.

The bottle, which exhibits a top-load strength of 33 kilograms, also has been shown to perform acceptably on filling lines and through the distribution process.

Short-skirt closure options multiply
The list of closure makers commercializing short-skirt designs continues to grow with Bericap GmbH and Co. KG, Budenheim, Germany, joining Corvaglia, Eschlikon, Switzerland; Global Closure Systems, Paris, France; and Alcoa Closure Systems International, Indianapolis, IN (see TricorBraun Sustainability Times, July/August 2007 and September/October 2007).

Bericap reports two breweries have switched to its 28-millimeter SuperShorty Crown closure. Adoption of a SuperShorty closure can save nearly 2 grams of material per container, approximately 1.3 grams from the neck finish and another 0.5 gram from the closure itself. The SuperShorty family also includes closures for carbonated soft drinks and water. All SuperShorty designs are designed for seal safely in hot climates and are compatible with aseptic filling lines.

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Sustainable Efforts

Wal-Mart transitions to concentrated laundry detergent

In an effort it hopes will transform the liquid laundry detergent category, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Bentonville, AR, intends to only sell concentrated liquid laundry detergents in its domestic Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club outlets by mid-2008.

The phase-in will proceed geographically. After beginning in October 2007 in the South, it will spread to the North and Midwest by February 2008 and reach the East Coast in April 2008. “What we have done is work with suppliers to take water -- one of our most precious natural resources -- out of the liquid laundry detergent on our shelves,” says Lee Scott, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart. The smaller containers represent a source reduction of up to 40%. The retailer projects the change will save more than 95 million pounds of resin, primarily high-density polyethylene and polypropylene, and more than 125 million pounds of corrugated. Water savings is estimated at more than 400 million gallons, the equivalent of 100 million showers.

Since Wal-Mart sells approximately 25% of the liquid laundry detergent purchased by US consumers, the potential savings in natural resources through the entire retail industry could be four times higher.

Wal-Mart has been building the foundation for this commitment for several years. In 2005, the retailer initiated a partnership with Unilever, Trumbull, CT, to dramatically reduce the packaging of its All laundry detergent. In February 2006, Unilever unveiled All Small-and-Mighty, a triple-concentrated formula in a 32-ounce bottle, which contains enough detergent to wash the same 32 loads as a 100-ounce bottle. Wal-Mart helped bring the product to market by promising equal or greater shelf space despite the smaller product size. This success led Wal-Mart to work with other suppliers, and Procter & Gamble Co., Cincinnati, OH, began a national rollout of double-concentrated formulas of liquid Tide, Cheer, Dreft, Gain, Era laundry detergents in the third quarter of 2007, replacing 100-, 200-, 300-ounce sizes with 50-, 100-, 150-ounce.

The transition supports the retailer’s Sustainability 360 approach and will help it meet its goal of reducing packaging by 5% by 2013.

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Renewable Materials

Bioplastic developers eye cheaper raw materials

Bioplastics, which typically are derived from renewable sources like corn, may become even more environmentally appealing and less costly if new technology that uses agricultural waste or carbon dioxide can be successfully commercialized.

A Belgian company reportedly is working on commercializing a low-cost melt polymerization process that makes bioplastic from the waste left after processing crops like corn or soybeans. The resulting degradable material resembles polypropylene in both cost and properties and is expected to be available in commercial quantities late in 2008 or early in 2009. The developmental effort, which is based on technology developed by Professor Sergei Braun of Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, is moving forward under a license from Hebrew University’s Yissum Technology Transfer Co.

Technology that has its roots at another collegiate setting, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, relies on readily available, inexpensive raw materials like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide to produce bioplastics. Novomer, Inc., Ithaca, NY, has raised $6.6 million to finance development of the technology and expand production capacity. “Novomer’s use of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide as inexpensive feedstocks, rather than the use of valuable food resources, sets us apart from the competition,” explains Geoffrey Coates, PhD, who serves as Novomer’s chief science officer and led the Cornell research group that discovered the catalyst technology.

Dairy using PLA bottles invests in vertical integration
Naturally Iowa, Inc., Clarinda, IA, which blowmolds its own polylactic acid (PLA) bottles, has acquired PLA Supply Co., Omaha, NE, to protect its supply of the corn-based, compostable biopolymer manufactured by NatureWorks LLC, Minnetonka, MN.

The acquisition of PLA Supply also brings preform production capacity in Waverly, NE, as well as a long-term contract with Norland Int’l, Lincoln, NE, a supplier of PLA bottle-blowing equipment. As a result, Naturally Iowa will not only supply its own needs, but also sell PLA preforms and bottles to other beverage companies. It also plans to supply blowmolding equipment and consulting services to help other firms bring PLA bottle making in-house. “We believe that this is an enormous potential revenue source for the company, given the growing consumer interest in sustainable packaging,” says William Horner, president and chief executive officer of Naturally Iowa.

Hybrids blend bio material with traditional resin
Biopropylene, the first Hybrid Resin in the Biopolyolefins family from Cereplast, Inc., Hawthorne, CA, consists of 50% petroleum content/50% starch derived from crops such as corn or tapioca.

Priced roughly the same as standard PP and with similar physical and processing characteristics, Biopropylene serves as a drop-in replacement in most injection molding, extrusion blowmolding and thermoforming applications. However, since it processes at a lower temperature, it offers potential for energy savings.

About the author
Hallie Forcinio has covered packaging-related environmental topics for more than 20 years, first as an editor on Food & Drug Packaging magazine and more recently as a freelance packaging journalist. “My interest in the environment dates back to a high school government class,” she notes. “I was collecting glass, newspapers and aluminum cans for recycling long before my community had a curbside recycling program.”

In addition, to preparing the TricorBraun Sustainability Times, she contributes articles to numerous trade publications including Packaging Machinery Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology, Managing Automation and Ben Miyares’ Packaging Management Update, the weekly e-newsletter that posts each Monday on

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