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rPET Quality Report

4.0 Key contaminants

4.0 Key contaminants impacting rPET quality The key contaminants identified during the surveys are described in this section and also include explanations of the specific impacts that these contaminants have on rPET quality. Recycled PET is affected by contaminants from poorly designed PET bottles and thermoforms as well as materials that are difficult to separate from many other types of packaging products that end up in the commingled packaging waste stream. The following is a list of key contaminants listed by the reprocessors (in order of occurrence from the survey results): • PVC; • Other non-bottle plastics including black plastics; • Silver and other solid colours used for PET bottles/trays; • Metals (aluminium cans and metal springs from trigger packs); • Plastic films, bags, carrier bags; • Paper; • Glass; • Silicone; • Other plastics heavier than water (PS, HIPS, ABS); • Fines, dirt, loose labels; • Rubber. Table 1: Example of typical contaminants and their control measures during reprocessing. Factor Control Limits Input bottle quality Bottle sorting >30 mm Dust, wood, glass, inorganics Bottle sieving / washing 30 mm Multi-layer nylon Air classification when delaminated 2 mm > 0.5 mm Rubber, silicone rubber Colour Sort, Raman Spectroscopy >2 mm Oxygen scavenger and dispersed nylon additives Raman Spectroscopy >2 mm Adhesives Wash settings & chemicals Temperature and friction The limits in Table 1 refer to the size of items that can be readily sorted by the equipment that is usually used to remove the contaminants. The table shows that the limit for most contaminants is 2 mm and it is difficult to selectively remove contaminants smaller than that size. Therefore sieving at 2 mm could be a useful strategy in removing a range of contaminants. The down side of this approach is the loss of yield of PET if this PET is not redirected into other products. Of these contaminants, reprocessors find PVC, metal springs, aluminium, labels, adhesives and silicone from caps the most difficult to remove during reprocessing. When asked to rank contaminants by severity and occurrence, the following contaminants were identified: PVC contamination causes black specs in rPET, discolouration and a drop in the intrinsic Improving food grade rPET quality for use in UK packaging 14

viscosity of rPET. Black Specs are found in almost all recycled PET resins. Although rPET resins are melt filtered down to very fine levels (50-100 micron) degraded particles from burnt paper label fibers or degraded PVC black specs that further disintegrate and contaminate rPET resins are a real issue for converters and end users. Black specs are the end result of poorly chosen components such as paper labels or PVC thermoforms and shrink sleeves. Coloured PET/other Coloured Plastics cause discolouration of extruded recycled PET resins. The level of discolouration is typically related to the colour types and the levels of coloured contaminants present. Coloured particles can come from coloured packaging but also from components such as PET shrink sleeves, which will be identified as PET and will in many cases contaminate clear PET flakes. Whilst better than PVC/OPS shrink sleeves, coloured PET sleeves will cause discolouration as they are often heavily printed and the ink will discolour and contaminate the rPET during melt reprocessing (extrusion). Metal contaminants typically from springs in trigger packs or metal closures. These can cause serious problems if they get past a filtration system and can result in product recalls or packaging products being put on-hold and re-sorted. For reprocessors and converters who extrude PET flake, the presence of metal particles also causes filter screen packs to become blocked and this results in significant material losses due to extra filter flushing. Metal components need to be avoided in plastic packaging. Aluminium contaminants found in rPET come from two sources, namely aluminium foils or residual particles from aluminium cans. Aluminium contaminants are usually removed when melt-filtered, however if they get past a filter screen they are seen as serious contaminants that result in products being put on hold or recalled. Aluminium components in PET packaging need to be avoided. Silicone contamination has increased due to the popularity of leak resistant silicone valves and also silicone valves in sport drink caps. Silicone valves cause gels and defects in products made from rPET that contain silicone contaminants. Silicone valves should be foamed or have a density less than 1gm/cm 3 or be designed in such a way that once a cap is granulated the silicone floats and is removed with the polyolefinic cap material. Adhesive contamination results in yellowing of recycled PET. Certain adhesives can also cause the formation of gels and haziness within the rPET resin and products. PETG is often mistaken as PET. However PETG has greater melt strength than PET and is often used for wide mouth jars and can cause gels and other processing problems. PS/OPS/HIPS particles will cause problems for rPET resin during reprocessing and cross contamination with PS/HIPS will often result in bottle defects. Many PET bottle designers still use OPS for sleeves or for labels on PET bottles. Labels or sleeves should be made from polyolefinic materials such as OPP labels or PE based stretch sleeves with inks that do not run in hot wash systems. PLA contamination is relatively new in the PET industry, but is a potential threat. PLA particles present in PET flake are difficult to identify and remove and when extruded together as the two materials cool they will phase separate due to their different glass transition temperatures. This could potentially cause problems during solid stating, as the granules with PLA contamination could become tacky and stick to surrounding PET pellets which would result in the formation of clusters. When rPET is processed into bottles any presence of PLA contamination will cause haziness due to induced crystallinity. There are a Improving food grade rPET quality for use in UK packaging 15

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