The development of conventionally recycled PET for use in direct contact with food last year was an important step toward establishing standardization and consistency for recycled plastics similar to that of virgin materials. Johnson Controls Inc. of Manchester, Mich., said last year it had obtained a letter of nonobjection from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use of its SuperCycle post-consumer PET in food packaging.
The availability of a recycled resin for PET bottle molding was enticing to packaging makers who are seeking ways to comply with recycled-content legislation.
JCI increased the resin's production from 10 million to 20 million pounds a year at its Novi, Mich., plant, and plans to double production again this year, said Floyd Flexon, JCI's director of recycling.
``We have blown 20 million bottles with the material already,'' Flexon said. ``Most have been for ... carbonated bever-ages for regional and local bottlers, but there is a great deal of interest from larger customers.''
Flexon said using SuperCycle to produce bottles with 25 percent post-consumer content is 6-8 cents more expensive than virgin resin, but less than repolymerized PET.
The JCI material is only one of a number of recycled products that have attacked markets previously limited to virgin PET.
In Switzerland, Coca-Cola Co. of Atlanta introduced Coke in a 2-liter, multilayer PET bottle with a recycled core layer. The bottle is like those introduced by Coke in Australia and New Zealand in 1994. Coke officials have said they want to use recycled-content packaging throughout Europe by 2000, but so far the packaging is only allowed in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland.
Recyclers agree consistency in feedstock supply is a problem. Scrap properties can change from truckload to truckload. But several efforts are underway that may bring recyclers relief.
The Chicago Board of Trade is in the final stages of setting up material standards it will use when cash trading in post-consumer high density polyethylene and PET begins this summer.
Michael Walsh, CBOT's senior economist, said the trading organization will attempt to set definitions for various kinds of materials within the resin categories, including levels of contamination. The definitions would be used in CBOT's arbitration of disputes between traders.
An Environmental Protection Agency task force has recommended a number of tech-nical steps for the industry.
The City/Industry Plastic Redesign Project suggested that packaging designers make bottles and caps of compatible resins and discontinue use of anything but water-soluble labels to make bottle recycling easier.
The task force concluded only through industrywide standards will recycling continue to grow.