rPET: recycled PET bottles

PET Flaschen
© unsplash / Nick Fewings for unsplash

PET bottles have their advantages. They are nearly indestructible and light as a feather. However, they draw clear criticism due to their excessive use of resources and the pollution caused when they are carelessly thrown away. Specifically, when it comes to resource conservation, the EU is demanding the increased use of recycled PET (rPET). By 2025, all PET bottles are to be made up of at least 25% rPET. Leading companies in the industry are currently working on surpassing these EU regulations with new solutions to develop even more sustainable PET containers.

Reduced use of materials and more recycled content are key parameters in the development of innovative PET. “On a purely chemical level, rPET is no different from PET. The real challenge stems from the quality of the input material. If the incoming material is of a high quality, we don’t anticipate any significant restrictions to workability that can arise from using other materials,” says Aurélie Börmann of the PET packaging development and consultation department at Krones. “rPet has been processed on Krones blow molds for years without any major sacrifice in workability, quality and food safety. The consumption of fossil resources is continuously reduced while the use of rPet is increased. By using more recycled PET in beverage bottles, we can make our contribution to the transformation of the market and grow closer to a closed economy.”

Sustainability by directly printing 100% rPET containers 

pet bottle
© KHS

The use of rPET is a priority for packaging specialists. Where processing is concerned, there are no compromises – whether it’s the individual or personalized printing of bottles or the application of motifs during a limited period of a marketing campaign. Direct printing provides a high degree of flexibility in the design while offering bright colors, and thanks to the ability to print reliefs and structures, it also provides an appealing combination of visuals and surface feel. Another point in favor of direct printing is that label motifs can be easily changed at the push of a button, enabling new marketing ideas to be implemented at short notice.

But can rPet containers also be decorated with direct printing? Experts at Krones and its subsidiary Dekron are hard at work answering questions like this one. Product manager Zsolt Rozsnyai explains that various factors need to be taken into account for the ink to adhere to the containers.

In addition to the choice of ink and process settings, the material used for printing plays a key role. “If the material has a good and fully consistent batch quality, the process can be precisely adapted to it and the containers can be printed without a problem. One issue could arise when printing different batches with different levels of quality – then the process would, at a minimum, need to be checked once per batch and optimized as necessary.”

Returnable, lightweight and high in rPET

KHS, manufacturers of bottling and packaging systems, along with Austrian packaging experts Alpla, have now developed a returnable PET bottle with an extremely light weight and a high percentage of recycled material. In doing so, the plant manufacturer is following its principle of “reduce and recycle,” as Arne Wiese, Bottles & Shapes Product Manager at the KHS Group, explains. “Our goal was to produce a returnable solution that was as environmentally friendly as possible. Here, two parameters are particularly important: a light weight and a high percentage of recycled material.” 

KHS, manufacturers of bottling and packaging systems, along with Austrian packaging experts Alpla, have now developed a returnable PET bottle with an extremely light weight and a high percentage of recycled material. In doing so, the plant manufacturer is following its principle of “reduce and recycle,” as Arne Wiese, Bottles & Shapes Product Manager at the KHS Group, explains. “Our goal was to produce a returnable solution that was as environmentally friendly as possible. Here, two parameters are particularly important: a light weight and a high percentage of recycled material.” 

According to KHS and Alpha, not only are their returnable bottles 100% recyclable, they also contain a high proportion of recycled material themselves. Tests with preforms made of up to 35% recycled material yielded encouraging results and preforms containing 50% recycled material could be on the cards for several markets. This PET solution goes beyond the European Commission regulation of 30% recycled material in single-use PET bottles by 2030.  

PET bottle with a flexible shoulder

water for everyone flasche
© Sidel

The topic of rPET is also highly important to the development work of Sidel, who has developed an end-to-end packaging alternative for still water in the form of their Aya design. Their approach covers all bases, from the primary packaging made of 100% recycled PET to the cardboard secondary packaging to the alternatives for the tertiary packaging. In March, the concept won the World Food Innovation Award (WFIA) in the “Best Drink Packaging Design” category.

The key to its success is the V-shaped bottle made of 100% rPET. Aya is a 220 ml water bottle weighing only five grams. “The optimized bottle weight of our 220 ml Aya bottles in no way compromises its stability. This is due to the specific deep base design which makes it easy to stack the bottles and reduces their height while improving their overall storage volume. The cap fits perfectly into an indention in the base of another bottle which in turn provides stability in storage or during transportation on palettes,” says Vincent Le Guen, Vice President of Packaging at Sidel. 

Increasing advances in the area of rPET

Development departments are working hard to make PET containers more environmentally friendly by using less material and gradually increasing the rPET content for the purpose of reducing weight and conserving resources. Especially where weight reduction is concerned, leading packaging companies have made great advances in recent years with lightweight PET.  The focus, however, is also on the technical solutions for processing PET (printing solutions, labeling, use of caps, etc.). It is essential that these solutions are designed to allow PET to be recycled optimally since it is by using high quality rPET as an input material that optimal workability, quality and food safety will be guaranteed.

You can find out more about the recycling of PET at drinktec, which will be held from October 4 – 8, 2021, in Munich. Would you like to present your developments for single-use or returnable bottles? Then join us at the next drinktec.

This article is powered by Verlag W. Sachon.

Verlag W. Sachon

Verlag W. Sachon

The publishing house W. Sachon, headquartered at Mindelburg Castle, publishes nine established trade journals that regularly provide their readers with exciting and interesting information. The emphasis lies in the brewing and beverage industry. The specialized publications are published in German, English, Spanish and Mandarin. A national and an international newsletter as well as an SMS Executive Flash complete the print offer digitally.