Bill Bruce talks to Husky’s business manager for PET systems, Nicolas Rivollet.
The agenda for PET has moved from lightweighting to the use of rPET in the past 12 months. Husky has already achieved breakthroughs in lightweighting with the EcoBase and has now enabled the use of 100% rPET in preforms. What has led these developments – your own continuous R&D programme or pressure from customers?
Nicolas Rivollet: Husky has long been committed to sustainability and to providing our customers with innovative solutions to achieve this goal. We have seen that our customers want to be more sustainable by lowering part costs, as well as reducing scrap and material usage, while maintaining part performance and quality.
We have continuous R&D efforts that allow us to provide our customers with incremental improvements in these areas. We have also introduced differentiating solutions that have broadened the ability to lower costs and reduce the environmental footprint of the entire beverage package.
For example, our EcoBase preform design extends lightweighting potential and our HyPET Recycled Flake (RF) system enables the use of recycled flake for high level recycled material content in plastic bottles.
What were the biggest challenges in achieving stable preform production from rPET rather than virgin PET?
Rivollet: The key challenge when increasing the amount of recycled material in plastic bottles is to maintain system performance and high bottle quality. Recycled flake adds to this challenge because of the difference in physical properties and behaviour between flakes and pellets. Our HyPET RF system addresses these challenges with an injection unit that’s specifically designed for recycled flake.
System enhancements include an extruder design for improved processing of pellet and flake blends, two shooting pots, as well as in-line continuous melt filtration.
With this, and contrary to conventional systems, HyPET RF helps to maintain the shortest cycle times and best quality levels from zero to 100% recycled flake content.
Many companies now claim to be including either a proportion of plant-based plastic material or agents designed to accelerate biodegradability. What is Husky’s view of these developments? Are they truly sustainable?
Rivollet: Plastic produced from renewable resources is an interesting alternative. In the short/mid-term, given the availability and cost of material from renewable and non-renewable resources, some players are looking at a combination of materials. The success will depend on production economics and complete life cycle inventory. Regardless of whether material is initially produced from renewable or non-renewable resources, recycling bottle-to-bottle will help reduce costs and environmental impact.
With post-consumer waste collection improving (making the use of rPET more of a reality), and with lightweighting perhaps having gone ‘as low as you can go’, what next on the sustainability trail for PET?
Rivollet: In terms of lightweighting, there’s still scope for more widespread adoption of lightweighted bottles. The lightest water bottles on the market still only represent a small percentage of all bottles in the world. Most bottles are still much heavier, so there’s significant potential to reduce resin usage. But trying to get every bottle down to the lightest weight isn’t the goal.
Each application is unique in its performance requirements due to differences such as filling equipment, cappers, shipping distances and conditions. The same circumstances apply when increasing the amount of recycled content in plastic bottles as all packaging is unique and has specific performance and quality requirements.
Bill Bruce is group editorial director of FoodBev Media. You can contact him here
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