WASHINGTON — Pepsi is test-marketing a snazzy new 2-liter plastic bottle designed to snag consumers' attention with a grippable handle, but it may not be some recyclers' choice for the new generation of containers.
Some recyclers fear the ``quick grip'' bottle's heat-transfer labels may jam equipment and the inks may discolor recycled flake.
But it is unclear if the product actually causes problems in the recycling stream.
A Pepsi spokesman said tests with recyclers indicate the bottle can be recycled, with an unspecified additional step in the process. Some recycling officials said chemicals need to be added to aid recycling of the labels.
The bottle is part of a miniscule test — involving only 50,000 bottles — in four Michigan cities, and it can be redesigned with another label to address concerns, if Pepsi decides to continue the test, said Larry Jabbonsky, spokesman for Somers, N.Y.-based Pepsi-Cola Co. He said he was unable to provide the names of recyclers Pepsi tested the product with. Officials with the company that made the bottle, Schmalbach-Lubeca Plastic Container USA Inc. in Novi, Mich., could not be reached.
Some recyclers voiced their concerns about the bottle at a meeting last month of the Washington-based Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers.
Prompted largely by the Pepsi test, APR plans to send a letter to Pepsi and other bottlers advising them of APR's design for recyclability guidelines, said David Cornell, a co-chair of the APR committee that considered the issue, and the manager of plastics technology and recycling at Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, Tenn.
APR has not tested the bottles and cannot say if the design causes problems, but ``experience to date'' with heat-transfer labels has not been good, Cornell said. The National Association for Plastic Container Recovery, a PET container trade group in Charlotte, N.C., has not taken a position on the bottle, but President Luke Schmidt said ``we have heard there could be some problems with that bottle as far as the technical side of recycling.''
Heat-transfer labels in general can have adhesives that become stringy and gum up agitators in recycling plants. The ink can stain the flake when the containers are ground up, Cornell said.
``I think we need to be careful not to get into a feeding frenzy that this is the most awful bottle ever,'' Cornell said. ``I think what [Pepsi officials] have done is totally reasonable. They are aware of the concerns.''
Pepsi is an APR member.
Pat Franklin, executive director of the Container Recycling Institute in Washington, said the bottle indicates that ``Pepsi and other companies are choosing marketing over recyclability.''
Pepsi's Jabbonsky said the bottle's recyclability will be a major factor in evaluating what has been a ``well-received'' container among consumers. ``We think it's a great concept — consumers have asked for it,'' he said. But he said, ``It's got to be recyclable.''
Cornell said both Pepsi and Coca-Cola, another APR member, have been ``very good about keeping recycling sacrosanct.'' But he said heat-transfer labels are a new opportunity for packagers and could be used more widely, adding to recyclers' concerns.
APR and several other trade associations and companies, including the American Plastics Council, NAPCOR and the Tag and Label Association, are funding a $70,000 label protocol study at Rutgers University to identify good and bad uses of labels, including heat-transfer versions.