Wellman Inc., a major PET recycler, has withdrawn its objections to commercialization of polyethylene naphthalate packaging.
Nearly two years ago, Wellman penned a letter to the Food and Drug Administration outlining its concerns about the impact of PEN on dyeable fibers produced from post-consumer PET.
Originally, Wellman's tests had found that PEN in the post-consumer PET recycling stream affected the dyeability of fiber used in carpets and textiles, and that it had a fluorescent effect on fiber.
Based on that study, the Shrewsbury, N.J., company recommended that PEN should not be included in the PET recycling stream. As well, the company suggested that PEN-content packaging be given a Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. resin identification code other than No. 1 — the code for PEN's polyester cousin, PET.
However, in a May 1998 letter from Wellman that was recently disclosed by FDA, Wellman requested that its concerns be withdrawn. Since its 1996 letter, Wellman has worked with Shell Chemical Co., Amoco Chemical Co., Coca-Cola Co. and Magnetic Separation Systems Inc. to develop an automated sorting system for PEN containers. Wellman conducted two sorting trials at its pilot plant in Johnsonville, S.C.
Those trials concluded that the technology to sort PEN containers from the PET stream is sufficient. This eliminated Wellman's concerns about dyeability, according to the letter.
In addition, the company has been working and communicating with the Naphthalate Steering Committee, a committee of the Naphthalate Polymer Council, regarding PEN fluorescence. NPC, along with a Dalton, Ga., consulting firm, studied and evaluated the impact of PEN on the fluorescence of recycled PET fiber. Wellman has agreed to accept the findings and conclusions of the evaluation.
The study concluded that there should be no impact from the introduction of naphthalate into carpet yarns derived from recycled PET at the naphthalate levels studied.