By Mike Verespej The recent switch by Quaker Oats to tamper-evident neck bands made from a corn-based polylactic acid resin on one of its major product lines underscores the continued movement from PVC use for neck bands and labels in packaging.
``In the last year, we have seen PVC usage shrink from 75 percent to 55-60 percent of our business, with the rest being PLA and [recycled glycol-modified PET],'' said Theresa Sykes, director of commercial development for Gilbreth Packaging, a heat-shrink label manufacturer in Corydon, Pa., that makes the neck bands for Quaker Oats.
The new Quaker Oats PLA neck bands have a green, instead of a red strip, and have been in use on all Quaker Oats small- and medium-size oatmeal, grits and cornmeal products sold in paperboard containers since late May, completing a transition that began in October, Sykes said.
Gilbreth makes the neck bands from EarthFirst PLA film supplied by Columbus, Ohio-based Plastics Suppliers Inc., which uses Ingeo PLA resins from NatureWorks LLC, based in Minnetonka, Minn., as its raw material.
Sykes said dry grocery foods manufacturer Sturm Foods Inc. in Manawa, Wis., shifted to PLA for its drink mix packaging about six months ago, switching from a PVC tube packaging to a PLA-seamed product. She also said Gilbreth makes PLA neck bands for Garnier Fructis' products and Love's Baby Soft perfumes and colognes.
Another drink manufacturer, AgroLabs Inc. in Hillside, N.J., has been using full-body PLA shrink film labels since November on its 32-ounce bottles of fruit-flavored liquid dietary supplement drinks. Those labels are made by Seal-it Inc. of Farmingdale, N.Y., a division off Printpack Inc. in Atlanta, also using EarthFirst PLA film.
One reason for the shift to PLA is that a number of companies, like AgroLabs and Chicago-based Quaker Oats, which is a unit of PepsiCo Beverages and Foods, are looking for environmentally friendly packaging, she said.
But the larger drivers are major retailers and simply better economics, according to Sykes. ``Product manufacturers are being pushed by the Wal-Marts and Targets'' to make changes, she said.
``I think we will see this trend continuing with no end in sight,'' Sykes said. ``We have very few projects going in PVC. If we were having this conversation a year from now, I think we'd be talking about PVC only representing 40 percent of the business.''
Both PLA and recycled PET-G are more economical choices right now than PVC, she said.
In addition, PLA offers some manufacturing advantages, Sykes said.
``With PLA, you use less energy, so there is an energy costs savings because you can operate at lower temperatures,'' she said. That also translates into an ability to run more bottles per minute down a packaging line, she said, suggesting that a line churning out 250 bottles per minute can be increased to 300 bottles per minute using PLA neck bands and labels.