Encouraged by a swing in customer attitudes toward reused materials, container maker Amcor Twinpak-North America Inc. plans to start recycling PET bottle resin at an on-site facility by year's end.
The firm's Amcor PET Packaging unit, based in Mississauga, Ontario, will install the bottle-to-bottle recycling system at its new research and development center, said Nina Goodrich, general manager for PET technologies with Amcor Twinpak. The center is near an Amcor manufacturing facility.
Goodrich, who spoke Jan. 29 at Nova-Pack Americas 2002 on Amelia Island, said the company expects the system to be the first of several installed at Amcor plants. One or two other recycling systems are targeted at plants in the United States and South America, she said.
The time line for the other systems will vary, depending on customer acceptance for the project in Mississauga. The company still must find customers for the system, Goodrich said.
``For PET to continue to grow, there has to be a viable recycling solution,'' Goodrich said. ``And there has to be a monolayer, bottle-to-bottle solution that makes recycled PET equal to or less than the cost of virgin materials.''
The firm hopes to drive that solution with its new recycling process, using equipment sold and configured by Erema GmbH and its U.S. arm, Erema North America Inc. of Ipswich, Mass.
The Erema process uses an in-line microsensor to inspect clean PET flake, then repelletizes the material. The two-step process, taking PET from flake to pellets, is suited to providing recycled PET for monolayer bottle applications, Goodrich said. The company has received a letter of no objection from the Food and Drug Administration for products made using the system.
Several other large PET container makers are going after a similar recycling market, including Schmalbach-Lubeca AG and Plastipak Packaging Inc. Ratzingen, Germany-based Schmalbach said in September that it has developed a new bottle-to-bottle process that can recycle PET at an affordable price.
The initiatives by blow molders partly stem from a recent announcement by Coca-Cola Co. that it would add recycled content to its soft drink bottles and by similar moves expected from other bottling companies.
But price always has been at issue, Goodrich said. By putting a system at manufacturing facilities and combining several steps, Amcor can meet those cost concerns, she said.
The Erema system cleans and extrudes PET pellets in a simple process that can be used alongside blow molding equipment to make bottles, she said. The company will collect washed PET flakes from an unidentified source.
The equipment will be placed at Amcor's technology center in Mississauga. The facility combines several functions that Amcor had been conducting elsewhere, including polymer analyti- cal research and prototyping and design. The center, which opened Jan. 15, includes a 160-ton Husky press for prototyping and testing, and blow molding and preform equipment.
With an upswing in focus on PET recycling, the container industry still must prove that post-consumer uses are viable at a low cost, said Ben Benvenuti, president of Tampa, Fla.-based Commercial Plastics Recycling Inc.
His firm, a scrap PET recycler, considered starting a bottle-to-bottle recycling line and looked at Erema's system, Benvenuti said. But with virgin PET prices fairly low, it nixed that idea, he said.