GSK swaps shrinksleeves to permit bottle recycling

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Polyethylene terephthalate, Recyclable materials

GSK swaps shrinksleeves to permit bottle recycling
GlaxoSmithkline (GSK) says it is moving away from using polyvinyl chloride (PVC) shrinksleeves on its beverage bottles because the sleeve material is...

GlaxoSmithkline (GSK) says it is moving away from using polyvinyl chloride (PVC) shrinksleeves on its beverage bottles because the sleeve material is stopping the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in the pack from being recycled.

Director of packaging development, nutritional healthcare, Keith Marriage was asked about the issue at last month's Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) conference on recycled PET (rPET). He acknowledged that the PVC layer on the company's Lucozade and Ribena bottles could cause serious problems if reprocessed with the PET.

Marriage said: "We've been working hard to find a solution, doing trials with Recoup and our supplier FujiSeal in order to move away from PVC sleeves, and we're towards the end of that process now."

John Simmons, chief executive of bottle collection and recycling specialist Recoup, explains that automatic sorting systems reject PET bottles with a full PVC sleeve. Manual sorting teams will also discard them, since the downstream flotation sorting will not differentiate between PET and PVC. In this case, the two may be reprocessed together and, since PVC burns at PET's processing temperature, the resulting rPET will be rendered useless.

GSK believes it has found a shrinksleeve solution using multilayer polyolefins. This ensures that at the flotation stage the sleeve, plus any ink used in printing, is separated from the PET flake prior to reprocessing. While sleeve application is not as smooth as with PVC, GSK says the potential environmental benefits mean it is a compromise worth making. "GSK has now reached the point of progressing bulk trials all the way through the supply and recycling chain," Marriage explains.

If a polyolefin-based sleeve is used, the fragmented sleeve will be separated from the PET at the flotation stage, says Simmons, and so will not contaminate the rPET.

Simmons adds: "Today's designers have to design not only as far as the retail shelf or the consumer's home, but also with reprocessing needs in mind."

Currently, UK converters wanting to use rPET have to import it from overseas. But WRAP has been working with industry partners to bring the first UK material on stream over the coming months.

Related topics: Packaging materials

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