Recycling transparent PET bottles with full body light barrier sleeve

Background

FrieslandCampina strives to promote plastic recycling. Transparent PET can be recycled very well, which allows to use the recycled PET again for new packaging materials and other products.

However, milk products in general are sensitive to light and often require light barrier to protect the products taste and nutrients. For this reason FrieslandCampina uses transparent PET bottles in combination with full body light barrier sleeves. The empty bottles end up in household packaging waste. This waste is collected and sorted in huge sorting plants into Polyolefins, PET, Paper, Alu & Metal. During waste sorting these light barrier shrink sleeves hamper our bottles to be detected as transparent PET, so they won’t get recycled but more likely burned. As intermediate solution FrieslandCampina adds a perforation to the light barrier sleeves, to allow the removal before disposal of the total pack. If this is done, the bottles get detected as transparent PET.

Description of the need

We are interested in technologies that enable recycling of transparent PET bottles with full body light barrier sleeves. In general these solutions are expected to follow one of these two routes:

  1. Light barrier shrink sleeves, that allow the bottles to be detected as transparent PET, although giving full bottle coverage. Once detected, the sleeves must not pollute the recycling process (e.g. by inks, carbon black, etc).
  2. New technology that can be installed at the recycling plants, to enable detection of transparent bottles through the light barrier sleeve.

What we know already

Once detected and sorted as transparent PET, the bottles enter the PET recycling stream where the bottle will be grinded into flakes, followed by two additional sorting steps:

  1. Water bath: PET sinks, PE and other low density materials will float.
  2. What was not filtered out in the bath will go through an air separation unit.