RPET Growing & RHDPE Approved for Food Contact
Volume 3, Issue 4
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Material and design changes lightweight containers
Bacardi Canada Inc., Brampton, ON, is replacing glass containers with lighter polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles for Bacardi Breezers.
The change is part of an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The conversion to PET will cut greenhouse gas emissions 25% per year by reducing fuel costs and permitting more product to be shipped per truck.
“Our research showed that consumers prefer plastic over glass because of its convenience and functionality. By offering Breezers in new PET…bottles, we are doing our part to help the environment, while making it easier for Canadians to enjoy one of their favorite beverages,” says Jennifer Semley, assistant brand manager, Bacardi Canada.
Another brand owner, Sutter Home Winery, St. Helena, CA, is extending its use of PET bottles with the addition of a single-serving 187-millilitre size.
Sutter Home began using PET bottles in select markets in 2005 and has gradually increased distribution. The custom-designed bottles from Ball Corp., Broomfield, CO, feature Plasmax, a transparent, internal silicon oxide barrier coating that protects the wine by preventing permeation of oxygen through the container wall. The clear coating is easily removed during the recycling process so there’s no negative impact on the recycling stream.
“Sutter Home made the decision to switch to plastic wine bottles because of our ongoing efforts to become more environmentally friendly,” explains Wendy Nyberg, senior director of marketing for Sutter Home. “The plastic bottles weigh only one-sixth what the glass bottles weigh, and they’re much smaller, so consumers get the same amount of wine in a smaller, unbreakable, less wasteful and recyclable bottle,” she notes.
Extensive top-load and drop testing confirms the PET lite 6.6 container from Krones AG, Neutraubling, Germany, withstands distribution and handling. With successful test results in hand, the container is now ready for commercial introduction. Said to be the lightest PET bottle on the market, the thin-walled bottle is pressurized with nitrogen. Tests show no damage occurred at an internal pressure of 1.5 bar, nor at 1 bar, the pressure after three months of storage at 20 Celsius. In addition, the PET lite 6.6 bottle retains its firm feel even after four to six months of refrigerated storage when internal pressure has declined to 0.3 bar.
Instead of converting to a lighter material, some companies achieve source reduction by eliminating a packaging component. Petaluma Poultry, Petaluma, CA, for example, eliminates the foam tray in favor of an all-film package that is freezer-safe and leak-resistant. The tray-less packaging for organic chicken “reduces our overall packaging volume by 73%,” reports John Bogert, chief marketing officer at Coleman Natural Foods, Golden, CO, parent company of Petaluma Poultry. The tray-less packaging makes it possible to fit 25% more product per shipper and reduces both corrugated and fuel consumption.
Redesigned closures weigh less
Many brand owners are reducing the amount of plastic used in their packaging. One strategy that removes weight from closures and containers is the adoption of short-skirt closures.
For example, one-piece, short-height, Omni-Lok mini® closures from Closure Systems International (CSI), Indianapolis, IN, have been selected by two major beverage companies for carbonated products. The patented OmniSeal design ensures seal integrity and carbonation retention across a wide range of temperature cycling conditions. The versatile closure is engineered for bottles from 250 millilitres to 2.5 litres and up to 4.3 volumes of carbon dioxide. A patented “bead-behind-the wing” tamper band design provides consumer security and trouble-free application.
“Bottler response to Omni-Lok mini closures has been enthusiastic,” reports John Grainda, director of Global Business Development for Carbonated Beverages at CSI. “To date, we have converted over 30 high-speed bottling lines worldwide, with more conversions planned in the second half of 2009,” he adds.
With interest in short-skirt closures rising, the PCO1881 finish is replacing the PCO1810, particularly in the carbonated soft drink and beer sectors. With the development of a PCO1881 Sports Cap by Corvaglia, Eschlikon, Switzerland, sports and wellness beverages have another short-skirt option. Corvaglia already has a multi-cavity mold in operation to produce three-piece, pull-push Sports Cap.
Another closure supplier, Bericap, Budenheim, Germany, has introduced the GALILEO® I 26 cap, a one-piece 26/21-millimeter design with a narrower outer diameter and skirt. Intended for edible oil containers, the cap retains the internal diameter of the traditional 29/21mm neck so the same filling nozzles can be used.
If a two-piece 26mm screw cap is needed, Bericap supplies the EV 26/18 closure. It also offers the hinged, one-piece HC EV 26/18 and a two-piece, flip-top closure with a transparent top, the GALILEO® II 26/21.
Supply and consumption of RPET grows
With a growing number of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers being made with at least some recycled content and new sources of recycled PET (RPET), it’s easier than ever to convert from packaging made from all-virgin resin.
In a fresh-cut salad industry first, Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, CA, has begun using a thermoformed clamshell package from Packaging Plus, La Mirada, CA, made of 100% post-consumer-recycled (PCR) PET.
RPET production consumes significantly less energy and water than virgin plastic and results in lower greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste, according to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Charlottesville, VA. Based on Earthbound Farm’s annual usage of PET in 2008, the conversion to 100% RPET clamshells will conserve 424,000 million BTUs and 68,307 gallons of water, as well as eliminate 16,191 tons of carbon dioxide and divert 1.3 million pounds of solid waste from landfills.
“We started farming organically because we were concerned about the personal and environmental health effects of farming with chemicals,” says Myra Goodman, co-founder and executive vice president at the 25-year-old grower. “Organic farming has really positive effects, but we know we have to do more. More ecological packaging is an important next step; one we hope others will soon follow.”
A new label advises consumers about the package’s recycled content. A web-based contest seeks quotes from children for the inside of its clamshell salad labels. Authors of quotes chosen for the labels receive a $500 U.S. savings bond and a donation of $500 to the environmental charity of their choice.
“Our decision to switch to PCR packaging is one of many steps we have taken on our long journey of challenging the industrial status quo,” says Chad Smith, manager of Earthbound Farm’s sustainability initiatives. “There are many opportunities to create a larger U.S. market for PCR materials, which is essential to reducing what we’re putting in landfills. We hope that other companies will see the value in adopting packaging solutions with PCR content and that consumers will make the decision to seek out PCR packaging when shopping. Working in tandem, these steps will create the manufacturing demand needed for PCR materials,” he concludes.
In the culmination of a seven-year development effort, Naya Waters, Montreal, QC, Canada, is converting to bottles made of 50% RPET for all the company’s stock keeping units. It’s “the ‘greenest’ [plastic container] on the Canadian bottled-water market,” boasts Daniel Cotte, president of Naya Waters.
Reducing its environmental footprint has been at the heart of Naya’s strategy for many years. Since 2005, the company has reduced
the amount of PET in its 500-millilitre bottles 16%
the amount of plastic in its caps 2.5%
the corrugated in its secondary packaging 23.7%
New Bare by Solo deli containers and lids from Solo Cup Co., Highland Park, IL, contain 20% post-consumer recycled RPET. The recyclable containers provide glass-like clarity and replace Solo’s DeliGourmet containers, which were made of 100% virgin resin. “Our deli customers wanted ‘greener’ container options,” explains Karin Wennerstrom, director of foodservice product category management at Solo.
The stackable, cylindrical containers are available in 8-, 12-, 16-, 24- and 32-ounce sizes and handle temperatures from 20 to 160 Fahrenheit. All sizes share a common lid optimized to reduce leakage and protect freshness. Doubling sleeve counts to 50 reduces packaging for the Bare by Solo deli containers and improves deli operator convenience versus Solo’s DeliGourmet containers.
To meet increasing demand for food-grade RPET resin, PTI Recycling Systems, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Plastic Technologies, Inc. (PTI), Holland, OH, provides a compact, modular system designed to be installed near users of recycled resin (see TricorBraun Sustainability Times, May/June 2009).
“The base unit produces 10 million pounds or 4,500 metric tons of RPET per year,” says Steve Hawksworth, director of PTI, adding, “Capacity can easily be doubled with an add-on module. Further, we estimate the ‘total cost of ownership’ at approximately 40% less than other RPET technologies which can require capital investments as high as $8-10 million. “Our philosophy is that RPET supply is better suited to multiple, smaller processing operations versus one or two large capacity plants. We believe in a local ‘consume, collect, convert’ approach. By locating RPET production in closer proximity to resin users, you improve supp
footprint,” he concludes.
The LNO™c technology produces RPET with superior color and yield and lower acetaldehyde levels, which positively impact taste properties. A higher intrinsic viscosor molecular weight, more closely matches the IV found in virgin resins and enables equivalent performance. The resulting RPET is suitable for a variety of food and beverage applications including water, carbonated soft drinks, juices, fruit, baked goods, meats ancheeses. Package types include bottles, thermofo drinking cups, vegetable oil and deli containers.
Recycled HDPE receives clearance for food contact
EcoPrime recycled high-density polyethylene (RHDPE) resin from Envision PlasticReidsville, NC, has received a letter of no objection from the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Washington, DC, for food-contact uses.
Envision produces the food-grade EcoPrime RHDPE from post-consumer food-grabottles using a de-volatilization process, originally patented by Union Carbide Corp., now part of Dow Chemical Co., Midland, MI. De-volatilization removes any volatile contaminanto a level roughly 50% below FDA's maximum threshold. The process also removes any fragrances.
A research and development line at Envision currently supplies sample quantities oEcoPrime RHDPE, but the company expects to start up a full-scale line before the end of 2009. Resulting RHDPE can be used as a drop-in replacement for virgin resin in film andblowmolding applications in percentages up to 100%. However, most bottle makers and end-users testing the RHDPE specify a virgin/recycled resin blend because the current cost of scrap material means the EcoPrime RHDPE sells at a premium.
Containers made with EcoPrime RHDPE content exhibit properties similar to all-virgin containers although color may differ slightly due to the presence of pigmented capthe recycled resin. Packaging applications for the food-grade RHDPE include vitamins, supplements and herbal medicines, pills, personal-care products, frozen foods, milk, juice and other aqueous and/or acidic foods under FDA's Condition of Use C (hot fill or pasteurized above 150 Fahrenheit) and less severe Conditions of Use D through H. It is not suitable for products containing alcohol or fatty foods.
According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, RHDPE generates 25% less greenhouse gas than virgin resin.
Glass Recycles Day expands to week-long observance
Recycle Glass Week begins September 21, 2009. The expanded event, organized by the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), Alexandria, VA, is designed to help the industry reach its goal of 50% recycled content in the manufacture of glass bottles/jars by 2013. During Recycle Glass Week, GPI and its member companies will hold glass recycling-related activities; provide consumers with information and opportunities to hold their own recycling events; virtually announce the winners of the 2009 Clear Choice Awards; and recognize “Friends of Glass” companies, organizations and/or individuals that recycle glass or promote glass recycling. The event dovetails with Choose Glass Week, which is organized in several European countries by FEVE (European Glass Packaging Federation), Brussels, Belgium.
If the 50% recycled content goal is reached, GPI estimates the resulting energy savings would power more than 45,000 households for a year. For more information on Recycle Glass Week activities, visit http://gpi.org/learn-about-glass/recycle-glass-week/.
Criticism of degradable additives continues
As a growing number of brand owners embrace degradable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers, two more trade associations raise a caution flag about the recyclability, biodegradability and compostability of degradable plastic packaging.
A position paper, published by European Bioplastics, Berlin, Germany, a group focused on biopolymers derived from renewable resources like corn, expresses concern about the lack of evidence that oxobiodegradable plastic containers meet international standards regarding biodegradation and compostability such as ISO 17088 Specifications for Compostable Plastics or EN 13432 Rrequirements for Packaging Recoverable through Composting and Biodegradation. The paper echoes concerns about degradable PET expressed by the National Association for PET Container Resources, Sonoma, CA (see TricorBraun Sustainability Times, May/June 2009).
“If certain products that claim to be biodegradable or compostable are proven not to fulfill acknowledged standards, this is liable to impact negatively on our own members’ products, even though they do fully comply,” explains Andy Sweetman, chairman of the board of European Bioplastics.
The EurPR, a group of plastics recyclers based in Brussels, Belgium, questions whether oxobiodegradable plastics will pose problems in recycling.
In a report on cee.packaging.com, Symphony Environmental Technologies plc, London, UK, a maker of oxobiodegradable additives, counters the associations’ arguments by noting that oxobiodegradable PET complies with degradability, biodegradability and non eco-toxicity requirements of ASTM D6954-04 Standard Guide for Exposing and Testing Plastics that Degrade in the Environment by a Combination of Oxidation and Biodegradation. The report goes on to say, the fragments that result as the plastic breaks down “have been proved by scientific tests to biodegrade after the oxobio additive has reduced the molecular weight to 40,000 Daltons or less. It is then no longer a plastic and biodegrades…the same way as leaves and straw.”
Wells Plastics Limited, Stone, UK, which has an agreement with Planet Green Bottle Co., Vancouver, BC, Canada, to develop oxobiodegradable PET containers and performs, concurs, noting preliminary testing of PET recyclate containing its Reverte oxobiodegradable additive shows no significant detrimental differences compared to conventional PET recyclate.
In the United States, most activity in the degradable PET arena appears to be focused on bottles using the EcoPure™ additive from ENSO Bottles LLC, Phoenix, AZ. According to ENSO, containers with the EcoPure additive have been third-party tested and validated for biodegradability and recyclability using ASTM standards, degrade in either anaerobic or aerobic environments and leave behind only biogases and humus.
Bottle makers and brand owners introducing or expanding use of bottles with the EcoPure additive include CalSprings, Santa Fe Springs, CA (BioGreen™ reusable bottles), GoodPac Plastics, a Division of Goodwin Enterprises, Inc., Atlanta, GA; Native Waters, Fall River, MA; and AQUAMANTRA Premium Bottled Water, Dana Point, CA.
Calculators and guides support sustainability efforts
A growing number of guides and calculators help brand owners and packaging suppliers identify the “greenest” product and process changes.
Packaging in the Sustainability Agenda: A Guide for Corporate Decision Makers from the European Organization for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN) and ECR Europe, both of Brussels, Belgium, help senior executives evaluate packaging for the minimum environmental impact. The Guide advocates a holistic view to prevent choices that positively impact one part of the supply chain but have a detrimental effect at other points. In addition, it notes, a package that fails to protect its contents until ultimate use only generates waste. The Guide may be downloaded from either the EUROPEN or ECR Europe websites, www.europen.be or www.ecr-net.org.
A Carbon Calculator helps members of the British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF), London, UK, measure the carbon footprint of their facilities as well as individual print runs. Developed with assistance from The CarbonNeutral Co., London, UK, and based on principles of the BSI British Standard PAS 2050 Assessing the Life cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Goods and Services, “the new BPIF Carbon Calculator will help print and packaging companies to ‘carbon cost’ their jobs, and provide clients with a clear method to compare products and services across the industry” explains Michael Johnson, chief executive at BPIF. The association also advises members about steps they can take to reduce emissions.
NSF Protocol 352 (NSF P352), developed by NSF International, Ann Arbor, MI, an independent, not-for-profit organization committed to improving and protecting public health and the environment, helps brand owners and packaging suppliers validate eco-efficiency analyses (EEA) and avoid misleading claims, or “greenwashing.” NSF P352 establishes requirements for the content of an eco-efficiency analysis to ensure consistency, objectivity and transparency. One of the first users of the methodology is BASF, Ludwigshafen, Germany, a resin maker that helped develop the methodology. “BASF saw the need to raise the bar for EEA and looked to NSF and others to help establish the new protocol,” says Edward Madzy, BASF’s director of Product Stewardship and Regulations.
With successful completion of the verification process for its Joncryl® water-based resin for the printing and packaging industry, BASF plans to use the NSF Mark in literature and marketing materials. BASF’s study results and findings also are listed on NSF’s website. Verifications remain in effect for three years. For more information on EEA or the new NSF protocol, contact Patrick Davison, NSF senior project manager, at 734-913-5719 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nsf.org.
PLA supply grows, recycling concerns persist
To meet increasing demand, NatureWorks LLC, Minnetonka, MN, now wholly owned by Cargill, Minneapolis, MN, has doubled production capacity for Ingeo polylactic acid (PLA) to 140 metric tons at its plant in Blair, NE. Cargill assumed full ownership of NatureWorks in July 2009 when Japan’s Teijin Limited left the 50/50 joint venture it had been part of since October 2007.
Even as sales of PLA rise, concerns persist because small amounts of PLA contaminate the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) waste stream and lower the quality and value of recycled PET. Although tests by NatureWorks and Primo Water Corp., Winston Salem, NC, show empty PLA containers can be sorted from PET by near infrared (NIR) technology, the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), Sonoma, CA, contends the accuracy of such systems is not high enough to remove enough PLA to prevent contamination problems and too much PET will be falsely rejected along with the PLA. In addition, with a price tag typically in the neighborhood of $200,000, few recyclers have installed NIR systems.
“The entire premise that you can simply add PLA containers into the PET recycling stream, successfully sort them out, and eventually find markets for the material is like advocating that mixed ceramic materials can be thrown right in with the recyclable glass stream to be sorted out, and that eventually there will be enough of this mixed material that someone will want to buy it,” says Mike Schedler, technical director of NAPCOR. “It… just isn’t a viable solution…” he concludes.
“The reality is that the PLA container becomes a contributor to PET bale yield loss which is already a big concern for PET reclaimers, as is the additional fraction of marketable PET which will invariably get sorted out along with the PLA,” adds Dennis Sabourin, executive director of NAPCOR. So not only is there an increased cost for sorting and a higher yield loss, but without any practical way to aggregate the sorted material, or markets for it, it’s destined for landfill,” he predicts.
USDA issues ‘BioPreferred’ label guidelines
To make it easier for consumers to identify biobased products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Washington, DC, has proposed a voluntary BioPreferred labeling rule that works in conjunction with a BioPreferred procurement requirement for federal agencies. When final, this regulation will allow manufacturers of biobased products to apply to USDA for certification.
As defined by the proposed rule, eligible biobased products are composed wholly or significantly of biological ingredients -- renewable plant, animal, marine or forestry materials -- but exclude mature market products such as cotton shirts and wood furniture. To carry the “USDA Certified Biobased Product” logo, an item must meet or exceed minimum content requirements established by USDA for the federal BioPreferred procurement program. Products not included in the procurement list must contain at least 51% biobased content to carry the certification label unless USDA approves another minimum percentage. The proposed rule also requires manufacturers to document any on-package claims related to a product’s environmental and human health effects, life-cycle costs, sustainability benefits and performance.
The USDA Certified Biobased Product label contains a statement reporting the product’s percentage of biobased content. In addition, the USDA BioPreferred website address must appear on or in close proximity to the label. For the 15,000 products listed in the BioPreferred procurement program, the label also would include the letters FP for “federal preferred.” USDA has developed three versions of artwork: three-color (white plus two shades of green); one-color (using one of the greens) and black-and-white.
Comments about the proposed rule may be submitted until September 29, 2009, following instructions found at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-17610.htm and referencing Regulatory Information Number (RIN) 0503-AA35 and “Proposed Voluntary Labeling Program.” Additional information is available at www.biopreferred.gov.
About the authors
Hallie Forcinio has covered packaging-related environmental topics for more than 20 years, first as an editor on Food & Drug Packaging magazine (now Food & Beverage Packaging) and more recently as a freelance packaging journalist and principal of Forcinio Communications, an editorial services firm. “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 and Pharmaceutical Technology.
Michael Tuchek, a summer intern at Forcinio Communications, is a high school senior. He has written news, sports and feature articles for his school newspaper and currently serves as its features editor.