As you are aware, we make a point of staying on top of Product and Industry developments. For some time now, one of the priorities of the Shrink Sleeve Label industry has been to find an easier way to recycle the plastic films used to make the Shrink Sleeves.
The plastic content in shrink sleeve labels contaminates the recycling of PETE bottles. So, the goal is to separate the container from the sleeve. This separation is key, and there are a lot of ingenious ways to do this. The latest technique, implemented by Coca-Cola, is quite interesting. During the separation process, the shrink sleeves are made to float or sink in the recycling tanks. This works because of the different density of the plastic film. Another issue that was of concern was contamination from the ink. The ink used for shrink sleeves was developed so that it does not bleed off the surface of the film which ensures that it cannot contaminate the recycled resin.
Sealed Air (with OPS) or Jindal (with OPP) offer films that meet these demands, for instance.
The fact that Coca-Cola uses these types of shrink sleeves illustrates two things: 1, there is definitely an increased awareness to make Shrink Sleeve Labels more environmentally friendly, and 2, there is every chance that other companies will follow Coca-Cola’s example.
That being said, this is only the first step and a short-term solution. The most efficient solution is to “de-sleeve” the bottles. This would entail counting on consumers to remove the shrink sleeve label before throwing out the container. A better solution would be to find new ways to remove the shrink sleeve from the bottle before it reaches the recycling tank.
Some sleeves have pre-perforated seams to make the separation process smoother and faster. However, one of the most promising innovations is a process called “de-seaming”. What is it? It’s a chemical reaction that “de-seams” sleeves in just seconds even if the seam is really strong. Using this method, the PETE bottles can be recycled without worrying about contamination from their Shrink Sleeves.
Will this innovation become standard on the market? Well, we’ll see in a couple of months!