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Plastic Recyclers Offer Shrink Sleeve Label Solutions

APR logo2In its ongoing effort to address the issues associated with shrink sleeve labels on PET bottles, the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers has released a report offering up a number of solutions to mitigate the contamination of the recycled PET stream with shrink wrap material.

The report is the result of efforts begun by the organization last year.

Shrink sleeve labels can interfere with the accuracy of automated sortation equipment, and because many shrink sleeve labels are PETG-based or PVC-based film with density higher than water, they cannot be separated from PET flakes during the sink-float separation step of the recycling process. This contaminates the recycled PET stream and deteriorates the quality of recycled PET products.

In addition, poor ink adhesion on shrink sleeve labels contaminates wash and rinse water and can stain the color of rPET.

Key recommendations from the report include:

  • Employ sleeve labels that will float in water and separate from PET flakes in a sink/float material separation step.
  • Employ printed labels where the label inks do not stain PET flakes in the wash/rinse step.
  • Use APR’s Critical Guidance Document for Shrink Labels for PET Bottles as a comprehensive laboratory test program to assess the impact of a label on recycling PET bottles.
  • Where possible, use a sleeve label that leaves at least 20 percent of the PET bottle surface area exposed. This will allow the most accurate auto-sortation by the broadest range of installed color sorters.

According to John Standish of APR, although the problem is not completely solved, several label manufacturers have worked with the APR to create label stock that meets APR guidelines for removal of the labels in the wash system, which reduces the problem.

As the market evolves, he is hopeful more companies will adopt the new label innovation.

According to the National Association for PET Container Resources, PET bottle recycling has increased 53 percent since 2002.

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