TopicGroundbreaking Sun Chemical Solution Enhancesthe Recyclability of Shrink Sleeve-Labeled PET Bottles

The Sun Chemical Group, a core member of the DIC Group, is the leading manufacturer of printing inksin terms of market share in both the Americas and Europe.

Social Imperative

Shrink wrap is a material made of thermoplastic flm that shrinks tightly to conform to the shape ofwhatever it is covering when heat is applied. In recent years, shrink sleeves—printed tube-shapedshrink wrap for full-coverage labeling of containers—have come into wide use for labeling polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. Shrink sleeve labels have been extremely successful in terms of marketing and package appeal, which has driven up demand, spurring growth in the overall market for shrink wrap products. However, in the United States and Europe, sorting and separation issues have had a signifcant negative impact on the recycling of PET bottles. During the recycling process, granulated PET bottles go through a separation tank, where the density of water is used to remove contamination in the form of non-PET materials, such as caps and labels. Problems arise because shrink sleeve labels made from common current materials (i.e., PET-G) typically do not separate completely, causing the recycled PET material to be contaminated, residual label material or discolored by inks bleeding into the washing or fotation solutions. As a consequence, recycling effciencies are impacted (lower yields) and/or the resultant poorer quality recycled PET must be downcycled into carpet fbers and pallet stripping, for example, rather than upcycled into food-grade recycled PET for new bottles.

Sun Chemical’s Response

Stockpiles of PET bottles with shrink sleeves
Stockpiles of PET bottles with shrink sleeves

Sun Chemical has addressed this imperative by developing apioneering solution that facilitates the complete separation ofshrink sleeve labels from PET bottles. This solution centerson a breakthrough de-seamable composition that is applied tothe shrink sleeve, as a result of which it detaches easily andcompletely from the bottle during the full bottle washing stepthat uses a hot caustic solution. Bottles simply emerge fromthe washing process without labels, improving the efficiencyof optical sorting and also sink/float separation. This new de-seamable composition is attracting considerable attentionfrom the entire value chain involved in PET containers as asolution that will improve the quality and effciency of recyclingand expand applications for recycled PET.

VOICE

We have developed a solution that improves the recyclability of PET bottles.

Sun Chemical has explored numerous ways to improve the recyclability of PET bottles, focusing primarily on the developmentof inks and coatings suitable for use on foatable shrink sleeve label materials, which make it easier to remove contaminantsin the separation tank. However, challenges always remained. Our new de-seamable composition can be applied to shrinksleeves at the same time they are seamed and as a seaming adhesive using seaming equipment common in industry today.We are excited about the global potential for this innovative new product.

Field Marketing Manager, Sun Chemical Corporation Jeremy Teachman

Field Marketing Manager, Sun Chemical Corporation Jeremy Teachman

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