In an age of plastic bag bans, it’s interesting to see that for some kinds of packaging at least, there’s a trend towards greater or smarter uses of plastics. (Even labels are trending toward plastic.)
Some material changes can lead to the greater recycling of once near-unrecyclable packaging. Given the strong infrastructure for recycling PET, this material is becoming the target choice for green-conscious designers of containers and thermoforms (when they can make PET’s properties fit the app).
The kind of PET used also can be refined for recycling, as designers of Tropicana orange-juice containers found (as explained by this very detailed article in Packaging World). Typically, the PET for extrusion blow-molded bottles with handles is glycol-modified, “gumming up” recycling operations. So the designers switched to a clear, non-glycol-modified PET that’s compatible with typical beverage bottle PET recycling.
And what to do with the increasing amount of post-consumer PET? Make new food packaging from it, of course. As an example of the latest packaging specialists to use food-grade rPET, Placon Corp. reportedly now offers thermoformed deli containers made with 70-100% PCR bottle PET. Meanwhile, to close this loop tighter, money is being freed up by the USA’s SPI to develop the recycling of PET thermoforms.
Now about those plastic bags...
Mike Tolinski is the author of Plastics and Sustainability, published in Oct. 2011 by Wiley-Scrivener, and he is Contributing Editor for Plastics Engineering magazine of the Society of Plastics Engineers in the USA. His views have been shaped by his engineering, university, and journalism experience in the plastics and manufacturing industries over the past 22 years. You can follow Mike and be alerted on blog updates via Twitter.