The Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers, whose members represent more than 90 percent of the processors of postconsumer plastic bottles in the US, Canada and Mexico, have formed a group to address the rapid growth of full wrap shrink sleeve labels in the marketplace.
APR director Steve Alexander says full wrap shrink sleeve labels “represent a nightmare for most recyclers” because they render the containers they cover mostly unrecyclable. APR members are now seeing full wrap labels on an expanded number of containers and bottles, Alexander says. He says the initial concern was on PET bottles; now they’re seeing full wrap shrink labels on polypropylene bottles and containers.
Most sorting technology fails on two fronts, APR says. First, the sorting equipment cannot identify the resin composition of the container that the label is covering. Second, many of the labels are not properly removed in the washing process, causing the label to sink with the container in the normal sink/float process. This makes the material unusable for a second life application.
To address this problem, the group has published a list of principles it would like labels to meet to eliminate the contamination caused by the use of the full wrap label. These are:
- The label does not interfere with the ability of a NIR automatic sorter to identify the underlying PET bottle.
- The label separates from the bottle in a whole bottle wash step.
- Any sleeve label that remains after bottle granulation will float in water.
- Label residue present during hot caustic wash will not cause discoloration of PET flakes or molded plaques made from flake.
Alexander says technology and equipment manufacturers, major brand owners, and other APR members look forward to working with the label manufacturers and other groups to develop a solution that works for all participants.
Late last month New York City expanded its plastics recycling to include the recycling of all rigid plastics, including items such as toys, hangers, shampoo bottles, coffee cups and food containers.