There have been dozens of lightweighting initiatives in the past few years, dramatically reducing wall thickness and neck heights. In preform production and bottle blowing, huge energy savings have also been achieved. What’s next? Can bottles really become any lighter, and can production become even more energy efficient? How does Sidel see the future?
Luc Desoutter: Lightweighting can be further developed, but it has to be looked at in a holistic manner with secondary and tertiary packaging, taking into account all conveying, logistics and shelf life aspects. These can vary from one region to another. Consumer acceptance, package quality perception and brand image can also define the limits. It’s really a case-by-case approach.
When it comes to carbonated products, Sidel’s own Actis Lite technology accounts for significant savings in material costs due to a reduced bottle weight of 15% to 20%. For example, a 60cl PET carbonated drink bottle that weighs 25g has a shelf life of approximately eight weeks. The same bottle when treated with Actis Lite and reduced to 23g has a shelf life of over 20 weeks and results in an 18% saving of PET resin.
Over the past five years, Sidel has launched a number of innovative, lightweight bottles:
Many brand owners are pushing for greater and greater proportions of recycled PET (rPET) in their bottles, while others are choosing to move over to plant-based PET. What challenges are faced using these new polymers and where does Sidel see the future for rPET?
Luc Desoutter: rPET can be used in PET bottles as long as it’s approved for food contact. Brand owners are promoting even stronger specifications. Currently, there’s not enough high-quality rPET available, but a number of major brands are still committed to using rPET. This is a virtuous circle: showing consumers that PET can be recycled back into a bottle. This is an incentive for them to recycle.
For instance, Spa Monopole in Belgium already uses 50% rPET in their mineral water bottles. The same applies for Martens Brewery. Danone currently uses 25% rPET for its Evian and Volvic export bottles, and Coca-Cola is committed to sourcing 25% of its PET from recycled materials by 2015.
No matter what kind of packaging is concerned, the first step to an effective use of rPET is the collection of used PET bottles. Much progress has been made in this field, but, as accounts for all packaging materials, more consumer education is required.
Theoretically, biomass is capable of substituting conventional petroleum; no need to invent new materials. The point is to be able to extract the right chemicals from biomass in an efficient way (economically, technically, without compromising food supply etc). Existing plastic materials can then be made from these renewable sources.
Such initiatives have started for PET. Coca-Cola and more recently Danone have shown the way by using a PET with partial bio-based content: MEG that accounts in 30% of the PET manufacture is sourced for Cane molasses, a renewable source instead of gas. Further developments are being carried out for 100% bio-based PET and are to be announced in 2012.
In the coming decades, renewable resources will play a more important role. For now, PET based on crude oil is current state-of-the-art and we will do our best to implement as many recycled materials as possible. If recycled properly, PET can live forever.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2018