"Products that pass this rigorous test regime can be recycled using existing recycling practices, without any difficulties," said Dr A Opschoor, technical director and member of Petcore's expert evaluation committee. "We are very pleased with these results. It opens up new beverage markets with innovative solutions. Tests on several other barrier materials are in the pipeline; this is just the beginning."
Petcore's expert evaluation committee was also able to reach a verdict on shrink and stretch sleeves.
"Sleeves are a fantastic tool for brand owners to expand their abilities to reach out to their consumers," said Opschoor. "Sleeves provide sublime marketing power in times when the consumers decide on their product of choice while walking though a supermarket, in a matter of seconds. However, using the wrong materials could also render the PET container utterly un-recyclable."
Petcore distinguished between components that accommodate recycling, those that cannot be recycled and must be removed, and those that effectively damage recycling. The committee decided that it should only ban components, additives or barrier technologies, which cause real damage to the PET recycling process.
"We must not forget that nowadays, 25 per cent of all European PET bottles are collected, sorted, and recycled. This is an important achievement, and we cannot allow the use of wrong materials to interfere with this."
Based on this advice, Petcore has banned oriented polystyrene (OPS) sleeves from the European PET bottle market. Mr Koelewijn, director general of Petcore, placed this decision in the context of current recycling practices.
"PET reclaim processes rely on the physical properties of various polymers. OPS sinks in water float-sink tanks used in PET recycling processes, together with the PET flakes," he said. "From then on, it becomes very difficult to remove OPS. That was one of the reasons why we banned the use of PVC components years ago."
PET recycling processes in Europe differ from those in the United States and Japan. Virtually all European plants use wet grinding, making it very difficult to sort out those polymer films and labels that do not float in water. In the United States and in Japan, most PET recycling plants are based on dry grinding processes, making it relatively easy to remove films by air separation.
The emergence of several barrier materials for PET containers used in beverages has opened up new possibilities in packaging. Beverages such as fruit juices, dairy products, beer, and even some carbonated soft drinks, rely on enhanced barrier properties now offered on the market. Petcore's guidelines offer product developers a tool to assess the recyclability profile of barrier solutions.