Plastics Recycling Group Working to Reduce Sleeve Label Impact

Plastics Recycling Group Working to Reduce Sleeve Label Impact

A plastics recycling group has developed recommendations for the packaging industry to reduce the negative impact of sleeve labels on recycling.

The Washington-based Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) released the final report by its Sleeve Label Working Group regarding the recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles with full-wrap shrink sleeve labels, acccording to a news release.

Recyclers increasingly have been seeing containers with these labels that contaminate their material.

The group’s recommendations include: employ sleeve labels that will float in water and separate from PET flakes in a sink/float material separation step; use printed labels where the label inks do not stain PET flakes in the wash/rinse step; use the APR’s critical guidance document for the issue as a test program to assess the impact of a label on recycling; and use a sleeve label that leaves at least 20 percent of the PET bottle surface area exposed.

The APR Working Group was formed in June 2013 representing all segments of the recycling industry and label supply chain.

“Unfortunately, these labels serve as a great marketing tool, but they essentially render the container non-recyclable,” said Byron Geiger, president of Custom Polymers PET and chairman of the APR Technical Programs. “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. It was a significant problem.”

Several label manufacturers have worked with the APR to create label stock that meets APR guidelines for removal of labels in the wash system, which reduces the problem. “While we have a ways to go, the market is responding and working with APR to create guidelines that provide for the continued use of a full-wrap label that meets the needs of the recycler,” said John Standish, technical director of APR. “As the market evolves, we are hopeful more and more companies adopt this new label innovation for use with their products.”

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