The Plastic Redesign Project
Overview Coalition Members Contact Us Publications Links Join Members Only Area

 

RecycleWorlds Consulting

Final Phase II Report

The Plastic Redesign Project
a Report to the

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency

and to the

University of Wisconsin System

Solid Waste Research Program

November 1998

Contents
Executive Summary Completion

Synopsis

Caps
Problem Statement

Labels

Strategy Updating
Success Pigmented Milk Bottles
Introduction

Plastic Beer Bottles

The Problem Arrangements
The Strategy Conference
The Work Publicity
State Coalition Next Plans
Recommendations
Appendices

Appendix A
Laboratory Test Results of the Impact of Cap Contamination of the Ability of Regrind to be Molded Backed Into Bottles 19

Appendix B
Technical Analysis of the Issue of Pigmenting Milk Bottles 24

Appendix C
Final Design Recommendations of Plastic Redesign Project 35

Appendix D
Invitation Brochure to Redesign Roundtable 5

Appendix E
Press Releases to News Media 18

Appendix F
Press Coverage of the Project 22

 

Executive Summary

Synopsis. The goal of the Project is to increase the price communities receive for their post consumer plastic bottles in three ways -- by making them easier, and, thus, less expensive to process; by making it possible -- because processing will become simpler -- to integrate processing inside qualified MRFs, reducing costly double handling and increasing value added activity; and by producing flake with fewer contaminants that can be sold into higher paying markets.

Problem Statement. Plastics recycling, as it is presently structured, is not financially viable over the long run. With the current costs to collect, sort, densify, ship, and upgrade recycled plastic bottles, the imbedded expenses incurred by recyclers are higher than virgin resin sells for when commodity prices plunge. If plastic bottles were redesigned with recyclability in mind, the price that recyclers receive could be substantially increased.

Strategy. The Project established a process for communication between recycling officials and the manufacturers of products packaged in plastic bottles. New packaging designs replacing stale ones are essential to the survival and growth of business today. But, there need be no necessary reason for recyclers to fear packaging innovation so long as this process of creative destruction is gently guided to consider the back-end consequences of those new designs along side the front-end considerations. On the one hand this means that product manufacturers should work with recyclers to insure that their designs are compatible with back-end requirements in their own self interest.

Success. The Project brought together 32 states representing 75% of the US population who, based upon prior meetings with six salient plastics firms, developed a set of design recommendations for recyclability. They then presented those win/win consensus recommendations met with representatives from leading product manufacturers at a roundtable in Chicago.

The following companies attended, Constar, Continental PET Technologies, Interface, Kraft, Miller Brewing, MRI, Owens Illinois, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson Wax, and Stroh Brewing Company, along with representatives from the American Plastics Council and the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recycling. Clorox, Procter & Gamble and SC Johnson Wax concurred in the Project's design recommendations. Thirteen other companies are giving them serious consideration: Anheuser Busch, Coca-Cola, Dean Foods, Dow Chemical, Foremost Dairy, Garelick Farms, HJHeinz, Kraft Foods, Miller Brewing, Nabisco, Pepsi-Cola, Nabisco and Stroh Brewing.

The Project has received accolades from the press for its constructive approach to a devisive issue, including a lead editorial from the November 2nd Plastics News:

"It is heartening to see the persistence of the Madison, Wis.-based Plastic Redesign Project ..., establishing a dialog to ensure that packaging does not harm reclaimers needlessly. ... But the Plastic Redesign Project can help designers avoid recycling nightmares before they hit the market. The project has taken aim at specific issues, recommending common-sense steps... Plastic packagers and their customers should participate in this discussion and work to adopt these guidelines, which aim to keep recycling economically viable. Doing so is in the best interest of all parties."

Introduction

For the past five years the Plastics Redesign Project-- with funding from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Wisconsin Recycling Market Development Board, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the California Integrated Waste Management Board and the New York Office of Recycle Market Development -- has brought together recycling officials and industry in a major, cooperative effort to preserve plastics recycling as a part of this country's integrated waste management programs.

This report,(1) which concludes work on Phase II, describes --

The problems that threaten plastics recycling which the Plastic Redesign Project is intended to address;

The Project's strategy for overcoming those threats in a constructive manner that recognizes the legitimate needs of all of the players on the front and on back end of the product cycle; and

The work which the Project has accomplished to make a brighter future for resin recovery over the long haul.

The Problem

Plastics recycling, as it is presently structured, is not financially viable over the long run. With the current costs to collect, sort, densify, ship, and upgrade recycled plastic bottles, the imbedded expenses incurred by recyclers are higher than the price that virgin resin sells for when commodity prices plunge.

This problem is exacerbated further because of the structure of the virgin resin industry. Plastics is a low margin/high volume business in which high plant utilization rates are essential in order to remain competitive. Consequently, when demand slumps, producers have sacrificed earnings in a fierce effort to maintain market share, sold virgin resin at wide spec prices or even lower to the point where it did not seem to cover their marginal cost of production.

Under these conditions, with the price of purer virgin material selling for less than it costs to recover washed flake ground from used bottles, it becomes impossible for recyclers to compete for a substantial part of the commodity cycle.

Consequently, recycling may boast that it improves environmental sustainability, but it has not been erected on a foundation of financial sustainability.

Consequently, not only does the future of plastics recycling depend upon packagers ceasing new product designs which increase recyclers' processing costs further, but also upon making aggressive efforts to retune the existing lineup of designs in order to reduce processing costs from their current levels for plastics recycling to be a part of the 21st century.(2) Of course, at the same time, recyclers need to improve the efficiency of their operations, as well, so that everyone is pulling together.

The Strategy

New packaging designs replacing stale ones are essential to the survival and growth of business today. That is the reality of marketing in the modern world. But, there need be no necessary reason for recyclers to fear packaging innovation so long as this process of creative destruction is gently guided to consider the back-end consequences of those new designs along side the front-end considerations.

This because history has shown that -- if the innate ingenuity of package designers is effectively challenged -- the designers can almost always meet the performance needs for the product while engineering around any problems the original design creates for recovery -- and do so in most cases without any additional cost.

For example, in the past cross-contaminating polyvinyl chloride ("PVC") liners inside the caps on soft drink bottles to retain carbonation were replaced with ethyl vinyl alcohol liners, and difficult-to-remove high density polyethylene ("HDPE") base cups were replaced with a thickening of the foot of the bottle.

Unfortunately, unlike the cooperative spirit that marked first half of the 1990's, this sense of comity has waned in the second half of the decade.

What is lacking today is a vision by the key players in plastics' life cycle to understand their mutually dependency on each other. Recyclers need redesigns in packaging to simplify processing, and the manufacturers of product which is packaged in plastic need to have their container perceived as being recyclable by the public at large -- something that would be disrupted if recycling programs were forced to refuse to collect plastics at the curb because it had become so expensive to do so.

Instead of finger pointing from both sides at the other, this means, on the one hand, that product manufacturers should work with recyclers to insure that their designs are compatible with back-end requirements in their own self interest. That need not -- it should be emphasized -- necessitate any sacrifice on manufacturers part. For experience has shown us that the changes needed on the front end, in order to accomplish for major savings at the back end, are relatively minor and inexpensive.

So long as this is done, on the other hand and in the interests of reciprocity this means that recyclers should not oppose new packaging innovations and ought to eschew rigid legislative mandates. They should also recognize the need to make their own operations more efficient at the same time in order to help plastics recycling succeed, and not just sit back and demand further effort from industry.

It is this process of interdependent thinking that the Plastic Redesign Project is working to foster. The Project's goal has been to substantially increase the price communities receive for their post consumer plastic bottles in three ways --

First, by making them easier, and, thus, less expensive to process;

Second, by making it possible -- because processing will become simpler -- to integrate processing inside qualified MRFs, reducing costly double handling and increasing value added activity; and

Third, by producing flake with fewer contaminants that can be sold into higher paying markets.

Earlier, in the first phase of the Project, a group of representative cities and companies (see sidebar) reached a consensus on 13 win-win redesigns for recyclability that were feasible for industry and important for improving the economics of plastics recycling community programs.

The preliminary recommendations from Phase I of the Project -- enumerated in the sidebar below -- included items for caps, labels, adhesives, seals, decoration and multiple layers.

Phase I's city/industry participation, however, was not able to undertake the next step -- implementation -- because antitrust laws preclude one competitor from directing another how to market their product. For that reasons, a new strategy was pursued.

Instead, the Project turned to the same model for voluntary cooperation regarding minimum recycled fiber content in newspapers that had previously been successfully employed by the association of state recycling officials in the northeast the Northeast Recycling Council ("NERC"). There, NERC invited the region's publishers to a meeting at which industry's voluntary compliance was requested with recycled content goals, and a favorable response was received.

The voluntary approach integral to this process has the advantage of not calling for legislative mandates. Legislation is often too rigid to respond constructively to what is an extremely dynamic and fast changing market. It rousts a negative response instead of eliciting industry's constructive forces. The legislative process is so convoluted that, when it finally reaches enactment, it often winds up addressing last year's problems that are no longer relevant. And, the legislature is not a body that is well known for having the time to rationally digest technical details. Furthermore, until more recently, legislatures had not been anxious to enact more mandates.

In this context, however, because plastic packaging is a national market, it is more appropriate to stitch together all of the regional associations across the country for the purpose of convening a meeting with industry concerning plastic redesign issues. That was the basis for Phase II.

The Work

In the Project's second phase, the following work elements were accomplished --

The coalition of state recycling coalitions was formed;
The preliminary recommendations were completed and updated;
The conference arrangements were made;
The conference was held
The Project's work was publicized; and
Plans were made for the next phase.

State Coalition. Thirty-two states representing 76% of the U.S. population were invited and joined the implementation second phase of the Project. All but three of the states worked through their regional associations (below) --

Communication among the states was accomplished by establishment of email and listserve links, through which messages that ran essentially continuously. In addition, six teleconferences were held among the state participants, when direct interaction was needed, on September 4, 1997, November 14, 1997, January 6, 1998, October 20, 1998, November 6, 1998 and November 24,1998.

Beyond the scope of the immediate Project, it should be noted that this process launched a new mechanism for the development of a national solid waste policy in the absence of one from Washington where progress has been stymied by gridlock. Previously, states had acted individually, but this go-it-alone approach has severe limitations when the market in which most products are sold is North America. This Project showed the states how to approach industry on a joint basis in order to facilitate communication more effectively the collective needs of recyclers across the country.

Recommendations. The recommendation process ran on two fronts: the first was completion of the preliminary recommendations in Phase I, and, the second, updating them to reflect the passage of time between the two phases.

Completion. Because had time ran out on Phase I before its work was completed, two of the recommendations from that phase were tentative pending further research. Those issues involved, first, caps on HDPE bottles, and, second, labels on milk bottles.

Caps. As with many of the Project's recommendations, slight, technical-sounding design components often have very significant impacts on the value of the resin when recycled. Preliminary recommendation no. 1 called for caps that are sufficiently compatible with the plastic bottle in the HDPE stream to be marketed into high value applications (such as bottle or film) that pay approximately 10¢ - 15¢ per pound more than low end uses (such as flower pots or plastic lumber). This followed a survey in 1994 to reclaimers in which many stated that bottle end markets would not accept cap contaminated flake.(3)

That is to say, reprocessors reported that more value was being lost do to the possible incompatibility of caps and bottles for high end applications than most communities received over time for the postconsumer HDPE bottles.(4)

However, the existing technical literature was inadequate to determine whether cap contamination of the HDPE stream really created performance problems, or whether the problem was solely one of perception.(5) If the problem was just perception, the task was to dispel it: if the problem was one in fact, the task was to determine what was the source of the problem. For resin has two attributes affecting remoldability: resin and viscosity. In addition to the class of resin there is also the resin's viscosity measured by its melt flow ("MI") -- or how runny the resin is when heated to its transition state (cap resins are injection grade, i.e. MI=12 to 20, or runny, instead of blow grade like the bottle, i..e. MI=0.4 to 0.8, or gooey). Based upon that knowledge, a way to engineer around the contamination without adding new processing costs could be pursued.

In Phase II, the Project pursued possible technical solutions -- involved compression molding and high molecular weight, fractional melt HDPE resin for injection cap molds -- while simultaneously investigating the validity of the perception that caps were a contaminant for high applications.

The Project completed detailed Environmental Stress Resistance Cracking and Bruceton drop tests per ASTM standards on the performance of bottles which are molded from resin that has been contaminated at levels of 4% by weight with caps made from PP, low density polyethylene ("LDPE") and HDPE with melt flows ranging from 2.0 to 20.0, and found that bottle performance is not adversely impacted by the caps. Both Procter & Gamble and SC Johnson, which served on the study design and peer review panel feel that these results are adequate for them to inform their bottlers that they will accept recycled bottles made from postconsumer resin ("PCR") that includes <4% cap material. The full laboratory reports are provided in Appendix A.

Labels. Preliminary recommendation no. 6 calls for label adhesives to be water dispersible in the reprocessors' wash bath. The concern here focused on milk bottles for which the label adhesives are rubber based to resist slippage when the refrigerated bottle "sweats" upon being removed from the refrigerator, but also resist removal during reclaimation. However, at that time, there was no commercially available means to accomplish this performance specification.(6)

Initially, the Project, in conjunction with the Rutgers' Center for Plastics Recycling Research and the Tag and Label Institute, worked to find a substitute adhesive that met the milk industry's performance specifications but also could be readily released in the wash system. Avery Dennison was developing a additive acrylic adhesives which enhance the labels' ability to stay on the bottle in use, but which can be detached easily in a pH-adjusted bath.

Subsequently, however, as this work was ongoing, a new strategy "outside the box" entered the market. This innovation completely eliminated the use of any adhesives, while providing a label that remains firmly secure regardless of condensation. Developed by a dairy/milk bottle molder, Garelick Farms, and its label supplier, MRI, the technique involved the use of a snap-on LDPE label in conjunction with a modified bottle side wall. The mold contains an indentation for the label to be inset where it will not be subject to slippage.

The snap-on is a four-sided label which increases costs slightly in proportion to the additional label material than the former one-sided, rubber based pressure sensitive labels. But, it also provides offsetting value added. For dairies are renting the other three sides to companies with complementary products as advertising to include their coupons on back and sides of the bottle. The dairies garner a double bonus: in additional to the rental income, consumers are attracted to buy a brand which provides bargain coupons.

Updating. The work of Phase I wrapped up at the beginning of 1995, while, due to delays in funding, Phase II did not begin work until 1997, during which time new packaging innovations had appeared that presented design issues for recyclers. These included pigmented milk bottles and plastic beer bottles.

Pigmented Milk Bottles. A major dairy in the northeast began to heavily promote a white pigmented milk bottle. The dairy claimed that pigmentation was necessary to protect the taste and vitamin content of the milk.

Recyclers' concerns over pigmented milk bottles are that the unpigmented jugs, which is the majority of recovered HDPE bottles, command a far higher price from end markets. Therefore, if the entire or substantial part of the dairy industry were to convert their currently unpigmented plastic milk bottles to pigmented bottles, recyclers would lose a significant portion of their revenues. Essentially, it would not be possible to recycle HDPE if a substantial part of the natural substream were eliminated due to widespread pigmentation.

The Project undertook a major investigation of both issues -- milk degradation and recyclers's profitability. With regard to milk degradation, that analysis found there is a body of laboratory research that concludes that milk packaged in natural HDPE bottles will exhibit nutrient degradation and light-induced off-flavors after exposure to dairy case lighting for sufficient periods of time. However, field studies did not show vitamin degradation to be significant in the field given the short milk turnover and stock rotation at a typical supermarket dairy case. Light-induced off-flavors, on the other hand, have been detected in significant portions of the commercial milk market by experts, but whether or not these off-flavors are detectable to the typical consumer has never been verified.

With regard to recycler's profitability, if every dairy shifts from natural to pigmented plastic bottles, the total value of the recycled HDPE stream in the U.S. will fall from $46.4 million to $31.7 million, or by $14,716,350, a 31.7% decline, based upon the average of the past four years' prices. That decline is generally considered to be fatal to the industry.

Also considered was alterative remedies for any perceived light induced milk degradation. Pigmentating with titanium oxide currently costs dairies for the dye an additional 0.6¢ to 2.5¢ per one gallon HDPE bottle with the majority of dairies paying close to 1¢. The need for thicker bottle walls due to the fact that the dye degrades the strength of the wall and other considerations might increase the cost to 5¢ per unit. With approximately 4,902 million gallons of milk sold in unpigmented HDPE bottles in 1995, shifting the entire diary industry to pigmented HDPE bottles would entail an additional cost of 1¢ on each of 5,611 million gallon and half-gallon bottles used to package that milk. This translates into an additional industry wide cost of $56,611,000 (or nearly $300 million if the actual price to pigment is a nickel per bottle).

Pigmenting all HDPE milk bottles has additional negative affects of $14,716,350 on the plastics recycling industry as described earlier. The total added cost to society, therefore, is $56,611,000 plus $14,716,350, or $71,327,350.

A less expensive option for the dairy industry, and without adverse consequences for recyclers, is to have retailers of milk decrease the intensity of flourescent lights used in milk display cases and either purchase yellow "bug" bulbs or cover white bulbs with a yellow light filter. The yellow filter blocks much of the light in the 400nm to 500nm light range that is of greatest concern in causing flavor and nutrient degradation. This method of decreasing milk exposure to harmful light has been shown to be effective under laboratory testing. A sampling of commercial lighting stores indicates that the incremental cost of a yellow vs. cool white 40 watt flourescent bulb is $10.20 and the bulbs typically last more than two years. A yellow shield costs $5.35 and typically lasts the life of two or more bulbs.

Using the milk sales data above and throughputs of a typical grocery store dairy case that uses two 40-watt fluorescent bulbs, the industry-wide cost of adding yellow shields over these bulbs totals $95,000. Although broad assumptions were required in order to arrive at this figure, the result illustrates the magnitude of the difference between dairy case lighting changes at $95,000 and pigmenting all HDPE milk bottles, along with the attendant loss of revenues to recyclers, at $71,327,350.

For these reasons, the Project recommended not pigmenting milk bottles. A copy of the Project's full report is included as Appendix B.

Plastic Beer Bottles. In order for beer to be sold in plastic, the bottle must be able to provide a four month shelf life. To do this, PET bottles must be modified to increase their barrier performance, both to impede further oxygen penetration and carbonation leakage, to a greater extent than is required for soft drinks.

These modifications may be of substantial concern to recyclers because some of those modifications may be difficult, impossible, or unfeasibly expensive to process, and may, in any event, degrade the quality of the soda and custom PET stream to the point where sale into high end markets would be foreclosed.

There are now four technologies under consideration for the body of the package (recognizing that colorization, label and cap components of the bottle cal also raise their own concerns for recyclers):

Polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) copolymers (i.e. PEN, which has greater barrier qualities than PET, blended with PET).

A five layer PET bottles either ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) or nylon interleaved between the outer and inner PET layers that are co-extruded;

Another five layer PET bottle, with a proprietary oxygen scavanging/barrier inner core or copolymer; and

Barrier coatings that are sprayed on the outer surface and may wash away during upgrading.

Various representations have been made for each as to their impact on recycling, but none have been made generally available for independent validation at this time. The first issue for recyclers is the nature of the bottle itself. In addition, as noted the colorization, caps and labels also can be in issue.

Bottle. Each modification to the standard PET bottle creates its own kind of concern:

PEN Polymers. The PEN industry has worked with MSS to develop an autodetection system to remove PEN blended bottles. The efficacy of the this new system (i.e. how many false negatives/positives, which in turn determines how many expensive passes through the system will be required) has not been disclosed, nor any underlying cost data. We estimate that PVC autodetection, recognizing the need for multiple passes or slow throughputs and the loss of incorrectly rejected PET, is in excess of six cents per pound of incoming material, and, presumably, the costs for PEN detection will not be dramatically different. In addition, no one has specified whether there would be any market for the blended PEN/PET resin that is separated. That is to say, the net effect of handling PET bottles that include PEN blended beer containers could be a loss of 6 cents per pound, without any offsetting gains. However, because of the present high cost of PEN, and the problem that PEN is having receviving FDA approval (because the agency is concerned about recycling impacts), it is no longer considered a likely candidate for beer.

Five Layer. The five layer bottle that includes either EVOH or nylon, in the quantities implied by beer applications, would contaminate the PET stream, and, apart from the economics of separation, no suggestion has been made that they could be autodetected.

Oxygen Scavenging Five Layer. This bottle is difficult to evaluate because the nature of the core material has not been disclosed. Continental PET has released conclusions of analysis done by Plastic Forming that suggest that at concentrations that are not substantially greater than 25%, there will be no adverse impacts on the quality of the material if it winds up being blended in, but more needs to be known before reliable conclusions can be reached by the recycling industry.

Barrier Coating. PPG, the major mover in this area, states that it has formulated its coating to provide requisite shelf life at comparable costs to multilayer bottles and to be removable in the reclaimers' existing wash baths. Although they are making very favorable commitments to work with recycling and not increase processing costs, their claims have not been independently validated, as of this writing.

Colorization. Most glass bottles are tinted amber, and some green. There are already green soft drink bottles, but there is presently no amber in the PET stream. The chemistry of the amber dye is incompatible with the green dye and cannot be mixed by, for example, strapping markets. Thus, at this time, there is no known market for amber plastic beer bottles, and, even if there were, the cost of adding another separation within the PET stream, would not be economically feasible. The only one-piece technology that avoids this issue -- in the assumed absence by the beer industry to abandon that color association with their product -- is the barrier coating. PPG has developed an amber tint within its barrier coating that washes off with the coating. Presumably, another option might include a full body label to provide the coloration in lieu of tinting the body wall.

Cap. Miller's plastic bottle package being test marketed now includes an aluminum cap. Their environmental people advised their marketing people that the PET reclaimers cannot adequately remove aluminum caps, but were told by the marketing people that they didn't care, that aluminum caps looked better. No claims as to better performance for aluminum caps were made.

Labels. Miller's design also includes a metalized label that, with a specific gravity greater than 1.0, will sink with the PET flake in the sink float tanks used by reprocessors.

For these reasons, the Project augmented its existing recommendation that all layers in multi-layered plastic bottles should be sufficiently compatible so that the PCR can be sold into high value end markets without incurring higher processing costs, with the following footnote:

"Beer producers are requested to ask vendors to demonstrate whether they can comply with the General Design Principles and only work with those vendors which can. In addition, beer producers considering packaging in a plastic bottle that is tinted a color other than green are requested to only do so if the color is applied just to the surface of the bottle and can be readily removed during processing without additional cost and without bleeding, or otherwise be accomplished with a label that has a specific gravity less than one and has a dispersible adhesive."

That general design principle held:

"Before launching a new type of plastic bottle, designers (or the firms considering its use) should determine not only whether it can be recycled as a technical matter, but also, whether it increases the cost of processing for the majority of reclaimers, or lowers the scrap value of the material processed, when the new bottle is recycled. If it does either, they should redesign the composition or configuration of the container, or develop alternative techniques to achieve equivalent performance and appearance, that will not have these negative impacts on recycling. In evaluating the impact on recycling, the bottle should be tested at the proportion of the new package in the process stream that would exist if it were adopted in all bottles for that application in the market segment in which it is sold, not at the smaller proportion that would exist at its initial launch."

A full copy of the Project's final Design Recommendations is included as Appendix C..

Arrangements. The Project decided to conduct the conference as a roundtable in order to encourage an interactive process in which each parties views could be given equal consideration. Also, to facilitate attendance, the Project reached agreement with the Society of Plastic Engineers to hold its roundtable coincident with their Annual Recycling Conference in Chicago the week of November 9th.

The product manufacturers were divided into sectors that reflected common package considerations --

Dairy
Water, Juice, Beer and Soft Drink
Food
Household Industrial Chemicals.

A copy of the invitation brochure and invitation list is provided in Appendix D.

Conference. The roundtable was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago on November 10, 1998.

Attendees. In addition to the state representatives, the following companies attended --

Constar
Continental PET Technologies
Interface
Kraft
Miller Brewing Company
MRI
Owens Illinois
Procter & Gamble
SC Johnson Wax
Stroh Brewing Company

In addition, the following trade associations attended --

American Plastics Council
Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers
Support. The following companies indicated that they support the Project's Design Recommendations--
Clorox
Procter & Gamble
SC Johnson

The following companies indicated that they are willing to work with the Project further to reach agreement on common design principles --

Anheuser Busch
Coca-Cola
Dean Foods
Dow Chemical
Foremost Dairy
Garelick Farms
HJHeinz
Kraft Foods
Miller Brewing
Nabisco
Pepsi-Cola
Nabisco
Stroh

Publicity. The Project has worked closely with the following news media to publicize its work--

BioCycle
Bottlemaking

New York Times Business Desk
Packaging World
Plastics in the Environment
Plastics News
Plastics World
Recycling Times
Recycling Today
Resource Recycling
Wall Street Journal
Waste Age
Waste News

World Wastes The press releases sent to the media are shown in Appendix E.

A number of favorable stories were reported in the media concerning the Project's work. They are found in Appendix F. Most gratifying was a lead editorial in the November 2, 1998 issue of Plastics News which opined

"The Plastic Redesign Project continues to plug along, although plastics recycling no longer is anything close to a front-burner issue to most Americans.

"Both of those facts are good news for this industry. First, plastics recycling should not be in the political forefront. Critics properly may question the plastics industry's commitment to recycling, nevertheless recycling is alive and well -- defections by major resin companies notwithstanding.

"Second, it is heartening to see the persistence of the Madison, Wis.-based Plastic Redesign Project, a coalition of recycling officials that has met regularly with project and bottle manufacturers, establishing a dialog to ensure that packaging does not harm reclaimers needlessly.

"Note that we are not discouraging packaging innovation. Innovation can be a boon to industry -- consumers and recyclers. As an example, note the rise of single-serve plastic milk bottles. Even the pigmented varieties are easier to recycle than the coated-paper board products that they replace.

"But the Plastic Redesign Project can help designers avoid recycling nightmares before they hit the market. The project has taken aim at specific issues, recommending common-sense steps like phasing out aluminum caps on plastic bottles, minimizing printing on unpigmented bottles, and encouraging production of a low cost, low-volume machine for detecting PVC at materials recovery facilities.

"The Plastic Redesign Project is taking another step at a meeting dubbed Rebotec '98 scheduled for Nov. 10 in Chicago -- simultaneous with the Pack Expo trade show and the Society of Plastics Engineers' Annual Recycling Conference. Another other things, the group will discuss the three new design recommendations, including two that could affect a coming wave of polyester beer bottles.

"Plastic packagers and their customers should participate in this discussion and work to adopt these guidelines, which aim to keep recycling economically viable. Doing so is in the best interest of all parties."

In addition, the Project Director, Peter Anderson spoke to the following organizations about the Project's work --

The National Recycling Coalition, on September 14th in Albuquerque (national)

The US Council of Mayors, on November 19th in Denver (municipal)

The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, on December 1st in Washington (international)

Next Plans. The state representatives are considering plans to institutionalize the process used in this Project in order to provide a continuing dialog between recycling officials and product manufacturers and possibly publishers and mills on the full range of design and content issues integral to recycling's economics. In this regard, it is anticipated that municipal recycling officials will be asked to join the state recycling officials who were involved in this Project.

In addition, the Project is in the process of exploring the possibility on the international front of coordinating its design for recyclability recommendations for products sold in plastic bottles in the U.S., with related efforts in Japan and the European Union that presently are not the same. Were it possible to harmonize a common set of recommendations, this would greatly facilitate the complex task of multinational corporations in meeting a disparate set of guidelines and regulations that conflicted with each other. This would provide an inducement for product manufacturers to cooperate with recyclers.


 

Appendix A

Laboratory Test Results of the Impact of Cap Contamination
of the Ability of Regrind to be Molded Backed Into Bottles

BRUCETON DROP TEST

Introduction

As part of a study to determine the effect, if any, of cap contamination in post consumer plastic bottle resin, stress crack tests and impact drop tests are being be conducted by the Plastic Redesign Project.

The subject of this laboratory report is drop tests performed on September 8, 1998, on bottles made from virgin homopolymer and copolymer HDPE with 4% contamination of the existing types of cap material (various melt flow HDPE, LDPE and PP).

Purpose

An ASTM drop impact resistance test was performed on twelve different types of bottle/cap contamination combinations with varying polymer composition to determine if the addition of a contaminate will affect the impact resistance when dropped from varying heights.

Equipment

S. C. Johnson Wax Bruceton drop test equipment was used to perform the tests. The serial number of the equipment was 9086.

Bottles

Procter & Gamble molded the bottles with resin provided by Equistar. Twenty bottles from each of the following type of cap contamination were used for the drop test.
Material MFI Contaminate Material MFI Percent of Contamination
Homopolymer HDPE 0.6 None - 0%
Homopolymer HDPE 0.6 LDPE 25 4%
Homopolymer HDPE 0.6 HDPE (Alathon) 0.4 4%
Homopolymer HDPE 0.6 HDPE 23 4%
Homopolymer HDPE 0.6 Polypropylene 2 4%
Homopolymer HDPE 0.6 Polypropylene 20 4%
Copolymer HDPE 0.25 None - 0%
Copolymer HDPE 0.25 LDPE 25 4%
Copolymer HDPE 0.25 HDPE (Alathon) 0.4 4%
Copolymer HDPE 0.25 HDPE 23 4%
Copolymer HDPE 0.25 Polypropylene 2 4%
Copolymer HDPE 0.25 Polypropylene 20 4%

Testing Procedure

The test procedure followed the ASTM Standard Test Method for Drop Impact Resistance of Blow Molded Thermoplastic Containers. The test method Designation was D 2463-95.

Procedure B or Bruceton Staircase Method was chosen over Procedure A. The reason for this choice was that Procedure A was a static drop test that only gave results of percent failures. Procedure B was a more complicated test but is designed to provide results that gives more details. The mean failure height and standard deviation could be calculated from the Procedure B results.

The bottles were conditioned by the following procedure. Twenty bottles from each of the varying compositions were filled to a nominal fill height with tap water at 73° F. The bottles were allowed to remain at room temperature for twenty four hours before testing. This allowed the bottles to have a uniform temperature between containers.

The test procedure included the following steps. The first bottle was dropped at 4 feet. If a failure occurred the drop height was lowered 6 inches. If the no failure occurred the drop height was raised 6 inches. This was done until twenty bottles of each polymer composition was tested. There was a height limit of 6 feet 6 inches due to the location of the ceiling and the configuration of the test equipment.

Results

There were no failures in any of the twelve bottle types up to the maximum height of the equipment, 6 feet 6 inches.

Conclusions

The contamination of the bottle cap material in the bottles did not appear to cause a deterioration in performance in the drop tests.

Test Performer:

Leah Samson, Mechanical Engineer
Reviewed and Approved by:
Peter Anderson, Project Director
Madison, Wisconsin
September 21, 1998

ENVIRONMENTAL STRESS CRACKING RESISTANCE TEST

Tests were done per ASTM D1975-95 of 12 samples, each consisting of 8 standard plastic bottles, for a total of 96 bottles provided by RecycleWorlds. Test report at conclusion of test.

The samples consisted of 8 each of the following:

LM6007-00 Homopolymer HDPE MFI- .6 (Control Lot) LM6007-00 Homopolymer HDPE MFI- .6 + 4% Alathon 9304 HDPE MFI- .4 LM6007-00 Homopolymer HDPE MFI- .6 + 4% NA860-008 LPDE MFI- 25 LM6007-00 Homopolymer HDPE MFI- .6 + 4% LS5140-00 HDPE MFI- 23 LM6007-00 Homopolymer HDPE MFI- .6 + 4% PP7200 Polypropylene MFI- 2 LM6007-00 Homopolymer HDPE MFI- .6 + 4% PP8020GU Polypropylene MFI- 20 LR7320-00 Copolymer HDPE MFI- .25 (Control Lot) LR7320-00 Copolymer HDPE MFI- .25 + 4% Alathon 9304 HDPE MFI- .4 LR7320-00 Copolymer HDPE MFI- .25 + 4% NA860-008 LPDE MFI- 25 LR7320-00 Copolymer HDPE MFI- .25 + 4% LS5140-00 HDPE MFI- 23 LR7320-00 Copolymer HDPE MFI- .25 + 4% PP7200 Polypropylene MFI- 2 LR7320-00 Copolymer HDPE MFI- .25 + 4% PP8020GU Polypropylene MFI- 20 Procedure: ASTM D1975-95, Procedure A: Nonyl Phenoxyply (Ethyleneoxy ethanol Solution).

The test containers were conditioned for 48 hours at 73+_ 2deg.F(23+_1.3deg.C and 50+_3% relative Humidity.

They were then filled to 98% capacity with a 10% solution Igepal CO-630 and water.

The samples were placed in a plastic, liquid containment, bag and in ovens at 122+_2deg.F (50+_1.3deg.C) and an equal contained filled with sand was placed on top of the sample and a top weight was added to bring the total top weight to 3.4lbs.

The samples were visually inspected daily using an inspection mirror and a focusing flashlight.

There was no visible sign of leakage during the 60 day duration of the test.

At the completion of the test the samples were removed from the ovens and visually inspected, at this point three failures were discovered.

One from the LM6007-00 Homopolymer HDPE MFI- .6 (Control Lot).

Two from the LM6007-00 + 4% PP7200 Polypropylene MFI- 2 group.

One from the LM6007-00 + 45 PP8020GU Polypropylene MFI- 20 group. The failures all occurred in the same general area of the bottles. That is to say the cracks were all along the mold line. There were approximately six to twelve drops of leakage per bottle. The resulting hairline cracks were located along the mold line and were approximately 1/4 to 3/8" in length. There were lines radiating from the original crack lines. Photos are being taken and will be sent as soon as they are completed. Equipment Used: BLUE-M oven, LAB-398, Last Cal. 06/12/98, Cal. Due 12/12/98. MURPHY&MILLER Temperature Chamber, OSO501-00, Last Cal. 05/19/98, Cal. Due 11/19/98. Inspection Mirror Focusing Flashlight SNC MANUFACTURING CO., INC. James W. Riedi, Reliability Engineer / SNC Testing Lab


Appendix B

Technical Analysis of the Issue of
Pigmenting Milk Bottles

The Plastic Redesign Project

Rev. 2

Designing Plastic Bottles for Recyclability: a Case Study

A TECHNICAL ANALYSIS
INVOLVING THE ISSUEOF PIGMENTING
PLASTIC MILK BOTTLES

Introduction

Design for recyclability -- as it is applied to plastic bottles -- asks packaging engineers to consider how new bottle designs will impact the economics of recycling the package.

It does not demand that recycling considerations dominate over all other considerations. Rather, design for recyclability asks that the reasonable needs of those who handle the package after it is discarded by the consumer are balanced with the needs for the package to perform its intended function of delivering a healthy product to the consumer. That is to say, for the marketplace to work properly, so-called "external" costs must be accounted for, even though they are not recorded on the books of packagers, because others in our economy must bear that cost.

Some examples of bottles designed for recyclability are those with labels that are easily removed in a plastics processors' wash water, and, caps that are easily removed from their bottle or that are made from a resin that is compatible with the bottle resin when remolded.

This does not mean, it should be emphasized, that packaging engineers are pitted against recyclers. For innovation more often than not makes it possible for both sides to win. In the past, the dynamic nature of the packaging industry has often responded to recyclers' needs with adaptations of new bottles that avoid adding more back-end processing costs or carry a cleaner and, therefore, higher value resin to market. Examples are the elimination of base cups on soda bottles and the elimination of multiple incompatible resin layers in ketchup bottles.

The Plastic Redesign Project, with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Wisconsin Recycling Market Development Board, was formed to continue finding win/win solutions between the packaging and recycling industries. It does this by asking package designers to apply their ingenuity to improving bottle performance in ways that do not erode the current fragile economics of plastics recycling and maintain the high value inherent in clean resin.

In 1995, the Plastic Redesign Project brought together cities with recycling programs and packaging companies and developed 13 consensus redesign recommendations that both parties agreed were reasonable. Today, 32 states are participating either individually or through regional associations in the Project, and they are now working on updating those recommendations for new design issues that have evolved since 1995. Many issues have arisen such as heat transfer labels on soft drink bottles and the introduction of a new clear resin -- abbreviated P.E.N. -- for carbonated beverages and hot-fill applications that can be confused with traditional P.E.T. bottles.

Another such issue -- and the one that is the subject of this working paper -- is the use of pigmented opaque milk bottles in place of unpigmented and translucent (natural) plastic milk bottles which, recyclers say, drastically reduces the bottle's scrap value. Ten dairies in different parts of the country are thought to presently use either white or yellow pigmentation in their plastic milk bottles.

According to several of the dairies' public statements, the reason for the switch to pigmented opaque bottles is to protect the milk's flavor from off tastes caused by light, and one dairy has cited vitamin degradation, buttressed by a number of academic reports [1].

There is debate, however, over the validity of these claims in the milk we actually drink. Mr. Robert Byrne of the International Dairy Foods Association has stated that there is no strong evidence that light in a dairy case affects most vitamins in milk and concludes that pigmenting is largely a marketing tool [2,3]. Modern Plastics magazine reports that "[t]he common thread is that each jug design reflects a push by dairies to distinguish their packaging so as to boost flagging milk sales."[4] Solvay Polymers, the major supplier of resin for the dairy industry, states "in practical experience in the production, distribution and consumer cycle, [vitamin A and B2] losses are negligible" and adds that due to added molding difficulties it "does not recommend in-plant container pigmenting until all other alternatives have been fully explored."[4] Plastics in the Environment magazine also reports that while "protection of flavour and vitamins from light degradation are the reasons generally cited for the design changes, most market analysts believe that this issue is a red herring and that opaque bottles are essentially a marketing ploy."[4a]

The purpose of this research paper is to, first, evaluate the claims of recyclers that pigmented milk bottles will adversely affect the economics of plastics recycling; and second, evaluate the claim that plastic milk bottles need to be pigmented in order to protect the product from damage by light in the field. This paper also explores alternative measures that might meet the needs of both parties.

Impacts from Pigmenting Plastic Milk Bottles on the Recycling Industry

Recyclers' are concerned because unpigmented jugs, which are the majority of recovered HDPE bottles, command a far higher price from end markets. Therefore, if the entire or substantial part of the dairy industry were to convert their currently unpigmented plastic milk bottles to pigmented bottles, recyclers would lose a significant portion of their revenues. In addition to the difference in revenues, there is the related issue of minimum volumes and economies of scale. Handling costs can easily eat up the small margins that exist in the scrap industry. Thus, shifting material from the high volume unpigmented stream to small different colored streams builds inefficiencies in sorting, baling and shipping that add up. Are these losses a major concern?

Plastic reclaimers typically make a profit when resin prices are high, but too often lose money when commodity resin prices are depressed. Because few reclaimers are large entities with substantial diversified resources to weather downturns, the present economics of plastics recycling are tenuous. They feel that the direction of future changes in plastics packaging needs to be towards simpler bottles with higher resale value to insure the survival of plastics recycling. Of course, any losses incurred by the intermediate processors will be passed back to the communities which collect plastic milk jugs.

The nature of their concern should be made clear. It is not that pigmented milk bottles are not recyclable: with one exception, they most certainly are -- technically. Rather, eliminating high-value unpigmented bottles from the recycling stream is said to significantly undermine the economics of plastics recycling over the long term. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, "[t]he problem for community recyclers

"is that milk bottles are their cash cow, and they need high volume to make ends meet. Even without the price difference, industry economics are tenuous right now. Because of the moderate price of oil -- the major component of plastic -- the gap between the prices manufacturers pay for new plastic and for the traditionally cheaper recycled is tiny. So every penny counts." [4b]

What do the numbers show? The reason why unpigmented resin sells for more than pigmented is that unpigmented resin can be used by a wider range of markets and can be readily modified with pigments to virtually any color.

Historic market prices bear this out. The preceding table shows the average price for unpigmented vs. pigmented HDPE bottle resin, the resin used to make milk jugs, paid by end users, as compiled from surveys by Recycling Times between 1994 and the present [5]. The average price for pigmented HDPE was only 57.2% of the average price paid for unpigmented HDPE. Not reflected in average price calculations is the fact that, during times when end markets collapsed, it was impossible to find any market willing to buy pigmented HDPE. That is to say, this 57% discount is a conservative estimate of future price impacts.
Percent Difference Between Unpigmented
and Pigmented Prices for HDPE Bottle Resin
   
Unpigmented HDPE
Pigmented HDPE
Difference
Pigmented/ Unpigmented

1994

Jan 7.00 3.80 3.20 54.3%
Apr 7.79 4.40 3.39 56.5%
Jul 8.50 4.45 4.05 52.4%
Oct 11.40 5.79 5.61 50.8%
1995 Jan 20.38 10.50 9.88 51.5%
Apr 28.08 15.28 12.80 54.4%
Jul 19.43 10.93 8.50 56.3%
Oct 14.43 9.29 5.14 64.4%
1996 Jan 10.90 6.61 4.29 60.6%
Apr 8.14 5.14 3.00 63.1%
Jul 10.50 6.36 4.14 60.6%
Oct 12.30 7.89 4.41 64.1%
1997 Jan 14.30 8.32 5.98 58.2%
Apr 16.40 9.07 7.33 55.3%
Jul 16.40 9.64 6.76 58.8%
Oct 16.70 9.07 7.63 54.3%
Average 13.92 7.91 6.01 57.2%

According to American Plastics Council (APC) surveys, of the 171,300 metric tons of postconsumer HDPE bottles recycled in the United States in 1996, 61%, or 104,491 metric tons, were unpigmented, making unpigmented bottles the largest fraction of the HDPE recycling stream.[6] In addition, APC calculates that 67% of HDPE unpigmented resin sales for bottles, or 70,010 metric tons, were to the dairy industry -- as opposed to other industries such as packagers of mineral water [7]. By applying these breakdowns to the total amount of HDPE bottles recycled, the following table shows how overall revenue from sales of recycled HDPE resin could change if all dairies changed to pigmented plastic bottles.

 
Difference in Value of HDPE Bottle Stream of U.S.
With and Without Pigmented Milk Bottles
 
Without Pigmented Milk Bottles
With All Pigmented Milk Bottles
Quantity
(000 mt)
Price/Pd
(cents)
Total Sales
Quantity
(000 mt)
Price/Pd
(cents)
Total Sales
Unpigmented 111.1 13.92 $34,085,124 0 13.92 $0
Pigmented 70.7 7.91 $12,325,583 181.8 7.91 $31,694,358
Totals     $46,410,708     $31,694,358
 

Thus, in the hypothetical case where every dairy shifts from natural to pigmented plastic bottles, the total value of the recycled HDPE stream will fall from $46.4 million to $31.7 million, or by $14,716,350, a 31.7% decline, based upon the average of the past four years' prices. Losses in scale efficiencies as the volume of natural HDPE declines are more difficult to generalize, but are not insignificant. Ultimately, these losses can be expected to be passed back to local recycling programs.

There is also another area where losses may be incurred if there is a substantial shift to pigmentation of natural HDPE, which is a distinct form of high density known as homopolymer. In those parts of the country where some dairies pigment their milk bottles, recyclers are sorting the pigmented jugs with the rest of the pigmented stream. Because the rest of that stream is a different form of high density known as copolymer, at some point the level of homopolymer in the copolymer will cause problems.

Specifically, copolymer makes a bottle that is more resistant to stress cracking than homopolymer. If too much homopolymer milk jugs are mixed in with the copolymer HDPE, it may no longer be possible to mold bottles from the contaminated pigmented stream. In this eventuality, the mixed resin would be downgraded to sheet or profile applications which pay several cents per pound less than higher grade bottle uses.

The Impact of Light on Milk

While the dairy industry has not previously expressed strong concern over detrimental light effects on milk, researchers in the dairy industry have. They have been concerned that exposure to light adversely affects the taste of and nutrients in milk. With sufficient exposures, laboratory tests do demonstrate that light can affect the milk. Unfortunately, none of the research that we have been able to locate reaches the issue of whether most of the milk actually purchased by consumers -- which is the real issue -- is noticeably affected.

Milk can be affected by light in two distinct ways. First, certain nutrients, such as vitamins A, B2, C and D, contained in or added to milk can be degraded by exposure to light. Second, milk can develop an off-flavor from exposure to light. These potential adverse effects are well documented and governed by a number of factors such as light intensity, light wavelength, distance from light source, exposure time, temperature, and method of packaging.

The question this paper seeks to answer is whether milk packaged in unpigmented translucent HDPE bottles is significantly affected by light during the time and under the conditions to which it is actually exposed. If it is significantly affected, this paper addresses possible alternatives to pigmenting the bottle in order to block harmful light.

Laboratory Tests

Before reaching the question of what happens in the real world, as noted previously, laboratory tests have shown that milk packaged in unpigmented HDPE bottles exhibits nutrient losses and off-flavors after sufficient exposure to fluorescent lighting [8,9,10,11]. Remember when reviewing these lab tests that, by themselves, they do not show that the exposure times at which degradation was observed mimics the light to which a milk bottle is exposed in the field.

Nutrients. The exposure time necessary to produce nutrient degradation varies depending on the nutrient and the intensity of the light source. Under laboratory conditions, significant degradation is found in vitamin A and riboflavin (vitamin B2) levels after less than 12 hours of continuing exposure to fluorescent light of the intensity found in display cases and at distances approximating the bottles closest to the fluorescent light source. Vitamin D is found to be relatively insensitive, and, while vitamin C is significantly affected, milk is not considered a significant source of vitamin C.

Vitamin A. There have been two separate findings with respect to vitamin A. Vitamin A found as a natural component of whole milk is not significantly affected by fluorescent light [9,12,13]. However, synthetic vitamin A that is added to low fat milk has been shown to be light sensitive. Laboratory tests vary, but overall, prolonged exposure to fluorescent light produced large losses in synthetic vitamin A of 90% over a 24 hour period under high-intensity fluorescent lighting. Under more moderate light conditions and shorter exposure times of 4 to 6 hours, smaller, but significant, losses were found in the vitamin A content of low fat milks packaged in unpigmented plastic bottles [10]. This shorter exposure time may be more realistic for the majority of milk sold from large supermarket dairy cases having high milk turnover.

Riboflavin (B2). Riboflavin has also been shown to be sensitive to exposure to fluorescent light. Laboratory tests of exposure of milk packaged in one gallon unpigmented HDPE bottles to fluorescent light have shown the effect on riboflavin to be less severe than that of vitamin A. Twelve to 18% losses in riboflavin were reported in milk after 12 hours of exposure to fluorescent light at average dairy case intensity [9]. These results are consistent with other studies at similar levels of light exposure [10].

Vitamin C. Vitamin C is extremely sensitive to light-induced degradation. This fact, however, has not created much concern among dairy researchers because milk in not a significant dietary source of vitamin C [10]. In addition, two researchers stated in phone conversations that there are so many sources of vitamin C in the American diet that adding vitamin C to milk would serve little nutritional purpose [11].

Vitamin D. Only one publication addressed vitamin D degradation. When milk with added vitamin D was exposed to light, vitamin D losses reached only 5% after two days [10]. These laboratory results are much lower magnitude than those for vitamin A and riboflavin.

Taste. Off-flavors, sometimes described as burnt cabbage taste, are thought to occur when riboflavin is "excited" by light energy, especially in the violet and blue portion of the visible light spectrum (i.e. 400 - 500 nanometers). This serves as a catalyst for the amino acid methionine to oxidize to methional altering the flavor [9]. Off-flavors were detected by dairy experts -- but not necessarily consumers -- in less exposure time than nutrient degradation, generally after 6-12 hours exposure. In comparison, milk packaged in paperboard did not exhibit light-induced off-flavors to any significant degree [8,9,10,12,13,14,15].

Other tests attempted to determine whether consumers could detect off-flavors deliberately created in the laboratory, without reference to whether those conditions exist in the field. The National Dairy Council states that "[i]t has been shown that consumers cannot distinguish an off-flavor in milk unless they have the opportunity to compare different milk samples" [10]. When given a reference point and a glass of milk that was deliberately exposed to create off-flavors, consumers preferred the glass without off-flavors. A taste comparison by 2,000 Vermont consumers showed that 73 percent preferred non-exposed milk to light-exposed milk [8].

Field Analysis

There have also been several attempts to find out whether the milk that is actually purchased by consumers in typical natural HDPE bottles shows noticeable deterioration in flavor and nutrient content in a significant number of instances. Unfortunately, while the tests detected impacts in some areas, none of the field oriented tests really answered this key question.

Nutrients. One field study, performed by the University of California-Davis to look at riboflavin impacts, randomly selected and purchased milk from actual supermarket dairy cases. Test results showed little difference in riboflavin content between milk packaged in unpigmented HDPE and milk packaged in paperboard [15]. The difference between this field result and laboratory results may be due to the fact that most milk is purchased in supermarkets which have high traffic and product turnover. Consequently, bottles do not remain on the display shelf for long periods of time, and, while in the display case, they move from the back of the shelf to the front as customers remove the front bottles for purchase. Light exposure may only be significant when the bottle sits on the front position on the shelf, not behind. Unfortunately this study did not test for vitamin A which has been shown in laboratory tests to be more sensitive than riboflavin to light degradation.

Flavor. On the other hand, the Davis study did find light-induced off-flavors. But since this was determined by a panel of dairy experts, it is not known whether the off-flavor would have been detected by the typical consumer. Among dairy experts, however, 45% of the milk samples packaged in natural HDPE bottles were found to exhibit light-induced off-flavor compared to 4.1% of the milk samples packaged in paperboard which is relatively opaque.

Summary

In summary, there is a body of laboratory research that concludes that milk packaged in natural HDPE bottles will exhibit nutrient degradation and light-induced off-flavors after exposure to dairy case lighting for sufficient periods of time. Thus, the potential exists for milk sold at retail to be negatively affected by dairy case lighting and no research was found that refutes this potential.

However, field studies did not show riboflavin degradation to be significant in the field given the short milk turnover and stock rotation at a typical supermarket dairy case. Field effects on vitamin A, which is more sensitive, were not recorded. Light-induced off-flavors, on the other hand, have been detected in significant portions of the commercial milk market by experts, but whether or not these off-flavors are detectable to the typical consumer is unclear.

According to Rob Byrne of the Washington-based International Dairy Foods Association, quoted earlier, there is no strong evidence that the light in the dairy case affects most vitamins in milk packaged in plastic or paper [2]. In a phone conversation with Mr. Byrne, he stated that light does affect milk nutrients and flavor but that as far as milk purchased by consumers in unpigmented HDPE bottles, there is not a significant light effect on nutrients. He also stated that most consumers do not recognize light-induced off-flavor except in extreme cases and concluded that pigmenting is largely a marketing tool.

On the other hand, Mr. Byrne said that if a dairy is adding vitamin C, which is extremely light sensitive, pigmenting the bottle may be justified [3]. This statement is validated in conversations with researchers in the dairy field, but typically they have discounted the nutritional need to add vitamin C to milk because vitamin C can be obtained naturally and as an additive in a variety of foods in the American diet [11].

Options for Minimizing Potential Light Effects

Although the technical case has not yet been made to support the need for pigmenting plastic milk bottles, if flavor and nutrient degradation is perceived or is later shown to be a significant problem for milk consumers, there are options available for minimizing light effects. One option is to package milk in opaque containers such as paperboard or pigmented HDPE bottles. A second option, changing lighting practices, does not necessitate pigmenting bottles.

Hopefully, a spirited dialog will uncover other options, as well. But, in the meantime, we have compared the relative costs of the two options that have been proposed.

Pigmenting bottles using titanium dioxide blended in with the HDPE resin has been tested in the laboratory and shown to significantly reduce detrimental light effects. It also is approved by the FDA for food application packaging. A recent examination of bottle costs showed that pigmentating using this method currently costs dairies an additional 0.6¢ to 2.5¢ per one gallon HDPE bottle with the majority of dairies paying close to 1¢ [9,11,16]. With approximately 4,902 million gallons of milk sold in unpigmented HDPE bottles in 1995, shifting the entire diary industry to pigmented HDPE bottles would entail an additional cost of 1¢ on each of 5,611 million gallon and half-gallon bottles used to package that milk [17]. This translates into an additional industry wide cost of $56,611,000.

Pigmenting all HDPE milk bottles has additional negative affects of $14,716,350 on the plastics recycling industry as described earlier in this paper. The total added cost to society, therefore, is $56,611,000 plus $14,716,350, or $71,327,350.

A less expensive option for the dairy industry, and without adverse consequences for recyclers, is to have retailers of milk decrease the intensity of flourescent lights used in milk display cases and either purchase yellow "bug" bulbs or cover white bulbs with a yellow light filter. The yellow filter blocks much of the light in the 400nm to 500nm light range that is of greatest concern in causing flavor and nutrient degradation. This method of decreasing milk exposure to harmful light has been shown to be effective under laboratory testing [14]. A sampling of commercial lighting stores indicates that the incremental cost of a yellow vs. cool white 40 watt flourescent bulb is $10.20 and the bulbs typically last more than two years. A yellow shield costs $5.35 and typically lasts the life of two or more bulbs.

Using the milk sales data above and throughputs of a typical grocery store dairy case that uses two 40-watt fluorescent bulbs [18], the industry-wide cost of adding yellow shields over these bulbs totals $95,000. Although broad assumptions were required in order to arrive at this figure, the result illustrates the magnitude of the difference between dairy case lighting changes at $95,000 and pigmenting all HDPE milk bottles, along with the attendant loss of revenues to recyclers, at $71,327,350.

According to two professors that have been involved in this issue for many years, dairy researchers attempted to implement these measures in the early 1980's. The effort did not succeed partly due to the fragmented structure of the dairy industry and partly due to counter efforts of marketing specialists to make milk more noticeable to consumers and improve milk sales. Whether or not a more concerted national effort to change lighting practices in milk dairy cases could succeed has not been determined.

Submitted by:

Richard Braddock and Peter Anderson
RecycleWorlds Consulting
Madison, Wisconsin
December 31, 1997

REFERENCES

1. Jan H. Schut, "Pigmented white jug aims to sweeten U.S. milk sales." Modern Plastics, Dec. 43-46, 1997 and Statement of H. P. Hood on Pigmented Milk Bottle, dated November 4, 1997.

2. S Toloken, "Recyclers worried over opaque milk bottles," Plastic news (Oct 27 '97).

3. Conversation with Rob Byrne of the International Dairy Foods Association, 11/11/97.

4. Solvay Polymers, "The Effects of Light on Packaged Milk," Technical Publication 9/97.

4a. "Milk Jugs: More Design Changes Appear," Plastics in the Environment, 12/97.

4b C. Gentry, "'Recyclable' Milk Cartons Might Not Be Recycled," Wall Street Journal (New Eng. ed.), 12/3/97.

5. The Markets Page, Recycling Times (1994 - 1997).

6. American Plastics Council, Resource Recycling Update (1995-6).

7. Provided by Ron Perkins of the American Plastics Council.

8. Bradley, R.L., Jr. "Effects of light on alteration of nutritional value and flavor of milk: a review." J. Food Protection 43: 314-320, 1980.

9. Dimick, P.S. "Photochemical effects on flavor and nutrients of fluid milk." Can. Inst. Food Sci. Technol. J. 15(4): 247-256, 1982; and Paul S. Dimick, PhD, "Protecting Milk's Vitamins from Light: Does It Matter?", paper presented to the Society of Chemical Industries, UK, 1995.

10. National Dairy Council, "Scientific Status Report #9: Effect of Light on Milk".

11. Conversations with Professor Robert Bradley, University of Wisconsin, Department of Food Science; Professor Paul Dimick, Pennsylvania State University, Department of Food Science; and Professor Bruce Harte, Michigan State University, School of Packaging.

12. Hedrick, T.I., and L. Glass. "Chemical changes in milk during exposure to fluorescent light." J. Milk Food Technol. 38: 129-131, 1975.

13. Senyk, G.F., and W.F. Shipe. "Protecting your milk from nutrient losses." Dairy Field 164: 81-85, 1981.

14. Ochtel, F.C., C.M. Stine. M.L. Richmond, Z.E.M. Saad, B.R. Harte. "The effect of fluorescent light on riboflavin and flavor quality of 2% milk packaged in high density polyethylene containers." J. of Packaging Technol. 1:4 124-127, 1987.

15. Reif, G.D., A.A. Franke, and J.C. Bruhn. "Retail dairy foods quality - an assessment of the incidence of off-flavor in California mild." Dairy and Food Sanitation 3: 44-46, 1983.

16. Conversation with David Boyden of Solvay Polymers, Inc., 12/22/97

17. Milk Industry Foundation. "Milk Facts" for 1995.

SOURCES INTERVIEWED

Professor Robert Bradley, University of Wisconsin, Department of Food Science

Professor Paul Dimick, Pennsylvania State University, Department of Food Science

Professor Bruce Harte, Michigan State University, School of Packaging

Fazila Seker, University of Wisconsin, School of Engineering, Department of Chemistry

Gail Wheeler, H.P. Hood, Inc.


 

Appendix C

Final Design Recommendations of Plastic Redesign Project

Design for Recyclability

Recommendations for the Design of Plastic Bottles

November 1998

"Design for Recyclability" is a registered trademark of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

New Bottles. Before launching a new type of plastic bottle, designers (or the firms considering its use) should determine not only whether it can be recycled as a technical matter, but also, whether it increases the cost of processing for the majority of reclaimers, or lowers the scrap value of the material processed, when the new bottle is recycled.

If it does either, they should redesign the composition or configuration of the container, or develop alternative techniques to achieve equivalent performance and appearance, that will not have these negative impacts on recycling. In evaluating the impact on recycling, the bottle should be tested at the proportion of the new package in the process stream that would exist if it were adopted in all bottles for that application in the market segment in which it is sold, not at the smaller proportion that would exist at its initial launch. Also, if new designs present new processing considerations, the designer should develop a "cookbook" to assist reclaimers to improve processing conditions.

Existing Bottles. Firms selling product in existing plastic bottles, other than the most commonly recycled HDPE and PET resins, should first reevaluate whether that type of bottle can be recycled as a technical matter. If the bottle cannot be recycled, alternatives that can should be pursued instead. If the bottle can be recycled as a technical matter, firms should also determine whether the bottle increases the cost of processing for the majority of reclaimers, or lowers the scrap value of the material processed, relative to the cost to process or scrap value of the commonly recycled bottle designs. In those cases where the existing bottle does increase the cost or lower the value to recyclers relative to commonly used alternatives, firms should either use those common alternatives or redesign the composition or configuration of the container that achieve equivalent performance and appearance, if the cost of doing so is not substantially more than the processing cost or lower value to recyclers from not doing so.

Only distinct resin types can be marketed to high paying end markets, and, of amongst them, unpigmented varieties command higher prices because they are more versatile in their applications.

Natural HDPE bottles should not be pigmented.(7)

PET bottles should not be pigmented or tinted a color other than green and should instead achieve equivalent effects with graphics on labels which have a specific gravity less than one and is applied with a dispersible adhesive.

Base cups should not be used on PET bottles.

All layers in multi-layered plastic bottles should be sufficiently compatible so that the PCR can be sold into high value end markets without incurring higher processing costs.(8)

PVC is disfavored in bottles for products that are also packaged in bottles made of other resins that look like PVC such as PET.

PET bottles for which handles are desired and that are used in market segments which represent a significant proportion of PET applications, such as the 2 liter carbonated beverage market, should not require the use of material which is incompatible with, or increases the cost to process, or lowers the market value, of the PET stream at the proportion of the new package in the process stream that would exist if it were a success and adopted by other companies for the application in that market segment.Consumers leave caps on about ½ of the bottles they recycle. Although, some of those caps fall off during collection and processing, many wind up as a contaminant in the reground material. In the PET stream, caps can be simply floated off in inexpensive sink/float tanks, but the task is more complicated, ineffective and costly in the HDPE stream.

Caps, closures and spouts on HDPE bottles (except living hinge applications) should be compatible so that the postconsumer resin (PCR) can be marketed into high value end uses (such as film and bottle markets) without the need to manually remove caps during processing.(9)

Caps on natural HDPE bottles should not be pigmented. Where needed, colored labels should be used for product differentiation instead of pigmenting the cap.

Aluminum caps should be phased out on plastic bottles.

Aluminum seals on plastic bottles are not preferred unless the seal pulls completely off by the consumer.

While most labels are either readily blown off in an air curtain or washed away during processing, some labels use adhesives that are very difficult to remove and some decorative techniques bleed onto the flake.

Adhesives on labels, including those on refrigerated bottles, should be water dispersible during processing or avoided by using shrink or snap on wraps.(10)

Decoration should be encouraged to be made so that the pigments do not "bleed" from the label during the reclamation process.(11)

Metallized labels should not be used on plastic bottles if the specific density of the bottle is greater than 1.0.

Printing should not be directly applied on unpigmented packaging containers, except for date coding.

PVC and PVDC film labels should only be used on PVC containers.

the Plastic Redesign Project

The Plastic Redesign Project is funded by the US Environmental Protection, with additional financial support from California, New York and Wisconsin. Its goal is to promote designs for plastic bottles that meet product manufacturers performance and appearance specifications for the packages that their product is sold in -- but which, at the same time, do not impede cost-efficient recycling of the package after it is discarded by the consumer. To find win/win design solutions for recyclers and packagers, in Phase I the cities of Dallas, Jacksonville, Milwaukee, New York, San Diego and Seattle worked with Avery Dennison, Johnson Control, Owens Illinois, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson Wax, and St. Jude Polymer to develop 13 consensus recommendations. In Phase II, 32 states' recycling officials are participating in a joint effort to work with product manufacturers to implement the design recommendations. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Advice Available

Designers are urged to consult with the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) for advise, testing protocols and full-scale wash lines for commercial tests. Information about APR's Champion's for Change program is available by calling 202/974-5419.

© Copyright 1998 Plastic Redesign Project Permission to reprint with attribution granted

Or, for more information, call 608/231-1100


 

Appendix D

Invitation Brochure to Redesign Roundtable the Plastic Redesign Project

Increasing the Price Communities Receive for Their Used Plastic Bottles

R E B O T E C '98

[Recycling BOttle TEchnical Conference]

A Roundtable Providing Recycling Solutions for Industry
by Designing Plastic Bottles for Recyclability

Announcement of Roundtable for States and Industry
for Tuesday, November 10, 1998
at the Chicago Hyatt Regency

The Plastic Redesign Project is a coalition of 32 states funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the states of Wisconsin, New York and California. The Project is working with industry to increase the price that communities receive for their plastic bottles by designing the bottles to be less expensive to process, and that produce flake with fewer contaminants which can be sold into higher paying markets.

Earlier, in the first phase of the Project, a group of representative cities and companies reached a consensus on 13 win/win redesigns for recyclability that were feasible for industry and important to the economics of local recycling programs.

In the current second phase of the Project, the 32 state coalition is updating those recommendations, and has scheduled REBOTEC '98, a roundtable with companies which make products packaged in plastic containers. The roundtable will be held Tuesday, November 10th in Chicago in conjunction with the Society of Plastic Engineers (SPEs) upcoming Annual Recycling Conference (ARC '98). The states are working with those firms to help them find ways to incorporate the Project's design recommendations into the company's specifications that they issue to their packaging vendors.

All interested parties are invited to observe and make short presentations of their views that will be considered by the state representatives and product manufacturers . There is no registration fee, but those wishing to participate or just observe are asked to pre-register (see attached form).

List of Attachments

Pre-registration Form
Time, Location and Schedule of Conference
List of Initial Design Recommendations(final list to follow)
List of Participating Cities and Firms in Phase I
List of Participating States in Phase II
Contact List

the Plastic Redesign Project
Pre-Registration for REBOTEC '98

(please type or print)
Name  
Title  
Organization  
Street Address  
City   State   Zip Code  
Phone   Fax    e-mail  
Type of Participant

(please circle one)

Product Manufacturer Bottle Vendor Public Official Media Other

Interest Area

(please circle any)

Dairy Carbonated Soda/Juice/Beer Food Household Industrial Chem'l

(HDPE) (PET) (HDPE/PET) (HDPE/PVC/PET))

Involvement

(please circle one)

Roundtable Participant Other Participant

(State reps and product man'f'r only) Wish to Speak Observer Only

Position on Redesign Recommenda-tions

(optional)

 

Return to

Plastic Redesign Project
The Executive Building
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
or
Fax to 608-233-0011

 

the Plastic Redesign Project
Time, Place and Schedule for REBOTEC '98
Time

Tuesday
November 10, 1998
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Place

Hyatt Regency Chicago Hotel*
Toronto Room
151 East Wacker Drive
(312) 565-1234

Schedule

8:00 - 9:00 a.m Registration
9:00 - 10:30 a.m. Beverage: Dairy (HDPE)
10:30 - 12:00 p.m. Beverage: Carbonated Soda/Beer/Juice/Water (PET)
12:00 - 1:00 p.m. Lunch Break
1:00 - 2:30 p.m. Non-Beverage Food (HDPE/PET)
2:30 - 4:00 p.m. Household Industrial Chemical (HDPE/PVC/PET)
4:00 - 5:00 p.m. Conclusions

*For hotel room reservations, the Plastic Redesign Project is using
the Holiday Inn O'Hare International (847/671-6350) because
all downtown hotels have previously been booked by Pack Expo.

 

Remember that the ARC '98 conference starts the following day
Wednesday, November 11th, at the nearby Hotel Inter-Continental
For registration information, call the Society of Plastics Engineers at
800/991-0082 or fax 847/202-0590 or email: ARCspe2000@aol.com
the Plastic Redesign Project's
Design Recommendations for Plastic Bottles
General Design Principles

New Bottle Designs

Before launching a new type of plastic bottle, designers (or the firms considering its use) should determine not only whether it can be recycled as a technical matter, but also, whether it increases the cost of processing for the majority of reclaimers, or lowers the scrap value of the material processed, when the new bottle is recycled. If it does either, they should redesign the composition or configuration of the container, or develop alternative techniques to achieve equivalent performance and appearance, that will not have these negative impacts on recycling. In evaluating the impact on recycling, the bottle should be tested at the proportion of the new package in the process stream that would exist if it were adopted in all bottles for that application in the market segment in which it is sold, not at the smaller proportion that would exist at its initial launch. Also, if new designs present new processing considerations, the designer should develop a "cookbook" to assist reclaimers in improve processing conditions.

Existing Bottle Designs

Firms selling product in existing types of plastic bottles, other than the most commonly used and recycled HDPE and PET resins, should first reevaluate whether that type of bottle can be recycled as a technical matter. If the bottle cannot be recycled, alternatives that can should be pursued instead. If the bottle can be recycled as a technical matter, firms should also determine whether the bottle increases the cost of processing for the majority of reclaimers, or lowers the scrap value of the material processed, relative to the cost to process or scrap value of the commonly used and recycled bottle designs In those cases where the existing bottle does increase the cost or lower the value to recyclers relative to commonly used alternatives, firms should either use those common alternatives or redesign the composition or configuration of the container that achieve equivalent performance and appearance, if the cost of doing so is not substantially more than the processing cost or lower value to recyclers from not doing so.

Assistance

Designers are urged to consult with the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) for advice, testing protocols and full-scale wash lines for testing the new bottle. Information about APR's Champions for Change program is available by calling 202/974-5419.

Specific Recommendations
[1] Caps, closures and spouts on HDPE bottles (except living hinge applications) should be compatible so that the postconsumer resin (PCR) can be marketed into high value end uses (such as film and bottle markets) without the need to manually remove caps during processing.

Technical Note: The Project has just completed Environmental Stress Crack Resistance and Bruceton Drop tests using ASTM standards to determine whether there are any adverse impacts on homopolymer and copolymer HDPE bottles from cap contamination at 4% levels by weight from PP with melt flows of 2 and 20, HDPE with melt flows of 0.4 and 25 and LDPE with a melt flow of 25. (Cap contamination in recycled bottles regrind is generally considered to be less than 2% by weight.). The conclusion from the test is that there is no adverse impact from such cap contamination. End users are asked to advise their bottle molders that provide them with recycled bottles to accept recovered resin that includes cap residues within these parameters as a less costly alternative to redesigned cap material or molding processes. Copies of the test results are available on request by calling 608/231-1100.

[2] Aluminum seals on plastic bottles are not preferred unless the seal pulls completely off by the consumer.
[3] Natural HDPE bottles should not be pigmented.

Technical Note: Some dairies have moved to pigment their natural HDPE one gallon milk bottles white or yellow. One of the reasons put forward for pigmentation is because of concerns that light might cause damage to the flavor or vitamin content of the milk. However, a review of the published technical literature on the subject shows that, while light damage can be demonstrated in the laboratory with sufficient duration and wattage, there is no field research to demonstrate whether this concern extends to real-world conditions. Another reason that has been generally acknowledged by industry observers for pigmentation of one-half and one gallon bottles is as a marketing stratagem. The Plastic Redesign Project recommends that were light damage shown to exist in real-world conditions, remediation be accomplished by yellow lights or filters in the supermarket shelf instead of pigmentation and otherwise not be used. Estimates calculated by the Project suggest that the cost of in-place yellow lighting in the super market would only cost nationwide $95,000 per year, compared to more than $71.3 million for pigmenting all bottles. In the case of smaller single serve milk bottles where light will, in fact, have a greater impact, the Project recommends that protection be achieved by pigment or light blocking additives in the full body labels typically used for these higher margin containers. Copies of an analysis of the issues relating to pigmented milk bottles done by the Plastic Redesign Project, A Technical Analysis Involving the Issue of Pigmenting Plastic Milk Bottles, is available by calling 608/231-1100.

[4] Caps on natural HDPE bottles should not be pigmented. Where needed, colored labels should be used for product differentiation instead of pigmenting the cap.
[5] Aluminum caps should be phased out on plastic bottles.
[6] HDPE base cups should be phased out on PET bottles.
[7] Adhesives on labels, including those on refrigerated bottles, should be water dispersible during processing.

Technical Note: One recent label strategy for milk bottles eliminates the need for using any adhesive, while providing a label that remains firmly secure regardless of condensation. This involves the use of a snap-on LDPE label in conjunction with a modified bottle side wall for which the mold contains an indentation for the label to be inset where it will not be subject to slippage. One supplier of these labels is MRI Packaging, and a dairy/molder which molds such bottles is Garelick Farms. The Plastic Redesign Project provides this example to be illustrative of how to meet the performance specification only and does not intend for the example to be prescriptive. The Project provides these company names to facilitate implementation only and does not make product endorsements. Other vendors with the same or alternative means to meet the performance recommendation are requested to inform the Project so that they can be added to this note.

[8] Decoration should be encouraged to be made so that the pigments do not "bleed" from the label during the reclamation process.

Technical Note: New packages are presently considering the use of heat transfer labels. These forms of labels typically bleed, and increase processing costs which is disfavored. See General Design Principles.

[9] Metallized labels should not be used on plastic bottles if the specific density of the bottle is greater than 1.0.
[10] Printing should not be directly applied on unpigmented packaging containers, except for date coding.
[11] PVC and PVCD film labels should only be used on PVC containers.
[12] All layers in multi-layered plastic bottles should be sufficiently compatible so that the PCR can be sold into high value end markets.

Technical Note: At the time these recommendations were written, except for test markets beer was not yet sold in plastic bottles, such a multi-layer plastic bottle, in the U.S., and this limited the development of a comprehensive design principle for beer applications in plastic. At least three vendors are offering container designs that are aimed at providing sufficient shelf life for beer to be packaged in PET or PET variant bottles. These include polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) copolymers, PET layered with ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) or nylon, and barrier coatings. Various representations have been made for each as to their impact on recycling, but none have been made generally available for independent validation at this time. Beer producers are requested to ask vendors to demonstrate whether they can comply with the General Design Principles and only work with those vendors which can. In addition, beer producers considering packaging in a plastic bottle that is tinted a color other than green are requested to only do so if the color is applied just to the surface of the bottle and can be readily removed during processing without additional cost and without bleeding, or otherwise be accomplished with a label that has a specific gravity less than one and has a dispersible adhesive.

[13] PET bottles should not be pigmented or tinted a color other than green and should achieve equivalent effects with graphics on labels which have a specific gravity less than one and is applied with a dispersible adhesive.
[14] Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is disfavored in bottles for products that are also packaged in bottles made of other resins that look like PVC such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Technical Note: Competitively priced PET bottles with equivalent or better performance to PVC are now generally available for firms that seek to package their product in most clear plastic bottles. For larger containers greater than one gallon which require a handle, however, it is recognized that PET molders in the past have had to use an extrusion instead of stretch blow molding process with more expensive polyethylene terephthlate glycol (PETG) in order to configure the handle into the design. Even though these bottle sizes in clear plastic bottles are a very small segment of the process stream, the fact that PVC cross contaminates PET loads at levels as low as 20 ppm means that PVC for bottles with handles also impede recycling and are also not preferred. Alternatives include absorbing the slightly higher cost of PETG bottles, exploring more recent innovations such as for integral handles made from PET that do not increase costs, or using natural HDPE and accepting its cloudy rather than clear appearance. Although PETG in significant amounts is a contaminant in PET, the proportion of the PET market represented by applications that use clear handle bottles is sufficiently small to be manageable.

[15] PET bottles for which handles are desired and that are used in market segments which represent a significant proportion of PET applications, such as the 2 liter carbonated beverage market, should not require the use of material which is incompatible with, or increases the cost, or lowers the market value, of the PET stream at the proportion of the new package in the process stream that would exist if it were a success and adopted by other companies for the application in that market segment, not at the smaller proportion that would exist at its initial launch.

Technical Note: While extusion molded PETG is considered acceptable for handle applications in the smaller market for gallon and over sized PET bottles, PETG would impede and increase the cost of processing the PET streams at the larger fraction represented, for example, by the 2 liter carbonated beverage market.

the Plastic Redesign Project
List of Participating Cities and Firms
in Phase I
Cities Industry

Dallas

Jacksonville

Milwaukee

New York

San Diego

Seattle

Avery Dennison

Johnson Control

Owens-Illinois

Procter & Gamble

SC Johnson Wax

St. Jude Polymer

 

the Plastic Redesign Project
List of Participating States in Phase II
Mid America Council of Recycling Officials
Illinois 11,543,000 people  
Indiana 5,610,000  
Iowa 2,795,000
Kansas 2,495,000
Michigan 9,368,000
[Minnesota]* 4,432,000
Missouri 2,592,000
[Nebraska]* 1,593,000
[North Dakota]* 635,000
Ohio 10,939,000
[Pennsylvania]** 11,961,000
[South Dakota]* 703,000 69,621,000
Wisconsin 4,955,000 50,297,000 50,297,000
Mid-Continent Recycling Association (U.S. members only)
Minnesota 4,432,000  
Montana 808,000
Nebraska 1,593,000
North Dakota 635,000
South Dakota 703,000
Wyoming 406,000 8,577,000 58,874,000
Northeast Recycling Council
Connecticut 3,291,000  
Delaware 680,000
Maine 1,235,000
Massachusetts 5,996,000
New Hampshire 1,105,000
New Jersey 7,776,000
New York 18,058,000
Pennsylvania 11,961,000
Rhode Island 1,004,000
Vermont 567,000 51,673,000 110,547,000
Southwest Public Recycling Association
Arizona 3,750,000  
Colorado 3,377,000
New Mexico 1,548,000
Nevada 1,284,000
Texas 17,389,000 27,348,000 137,895,000
California 30,380,000 30,380,000 168,275,000
Florida 13,277,000 13,277,000 181,552,000
Oregon 2,922,000 2,922,000 184,474,000
 

* Counted with Mid-Continent Recycling Association ** Counted with NERC ***Including states counted elsewhere ****Excluding states counted elsewhere

 
the Plastic Redesign Project
Contact List
Regional State Recycling Associations
John Hendren
Mid-America Council of Recycling Officials
c/o Wisconsin Recycling Market Development Board
201 W. Washington Avenue
Madison, WI 53702
608-264-8174/Fax 608-264-7832/email: jhendren@commerce.state.wi.us

Steve Danahy
Mid Continent Recycling Association
c/o Nebraska Department of Administrative Services
P.O. Box 94847
Lincoln, NE 68509
402-471-2431/Fax 471-2089/email: mat1011@vmhost.cdp.state.ne.us

Mike Alexander
North East Recycling Council
139 Main St. #401
Brattleborro, VT 05301
802-254-3636/Fax 254-5870/email: malexand@sover.net

Anne Lozo
Southwest Public Recycling Association
P.O. Box 27210
Tucson, AZ 85726
520-791-4069/Fax 791-5242/email: spramj@aol.com

Individual States Not In Regional Recycling Associations
Benden Blue
California Integrated Waste Management Board
8800 Cal Center Drive
Sacramento, CA 95816
916-255-2172/Fax 255-2228/email: tperry@ciwmb.ca.gov

Michael Ohlsen
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Road
Tallahassee, FL 32399-2400
850-487-4937/Fax 921-8061/email: ohlsen_m@dep.state.fl.us

Bill Bree
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
811 SW 6th Ave.
Portland, OR 97203-13917
503-229-6046/Fx 229-6954/email: bree.william.r@deq.state.or.us

Sponsors
Eileen Norby
University of Wisconsin System
Box 8010
Madison, WI 53708
608-262-8252/Fax 262-5316/email: enorby@ccmail.uwsa.edu

Henry Ferland
US Environmental Protection Agency - Headquarters
For US Mail
401 M St. SW (MC 5306W)
Washington D.C. 20460
For FedEx
2800 Crystal Drive (MC 5306W)
Arlington, VA 22202
703-308-7269/Fax 308-8686/email: ferland.henry@epamail.epa.gov

Susan Mooney
US Environmental Protection Agency - Region V
77 W. Jackson Bldv. (MS HRP-8J)
Chicago, IL 60604
312-886-3585/Fax 353-4788/email: mooney.susan@epamail.epa.gov

Staff

Peter Anderson, President
Richard Braddock, Project Manager
Janet Ingold, Administration
RecycleWorlds Consulting
4513 Vernon Blvd. #15
Madison, WI 53705
608-231-1100/Fax 233-0011/email: recycle@msn.fullfeed.com

Tom Tomaszek, Technical Advisor
Discas
567 1 S. Leonard Str.
Waterbury, CN 06708
203-753-5147/Fax 755-571/email: ThomasT447@aol.com


Appendix E

Press Releases to News Media

Plastic Redesign Project
4513 Vernon Boulevard Suite 15
Madison, Wisconsin 53705

(608) 231-1100 Fax (608) 233-0011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 30, 2000 (12:02PM)

States to Meet with Industry to Encourage Redesigning
Plastic Bottles for Recyclability

(MADISON) Is it possible to recycle plastic, or are those trendy plastic bottles going to destined for the landfill because it just costs to much to recycle them?

Each day, millions of plastic bottles are used and thrown away. They should be recycled but plastic recycling is not all that easy. And it's getting harder. Plastic bottle with new designs and new types of plastic often make sorting and recycling plastic more difficult than it needs to be. Cap, lid, labels and glue can all add to the plastic recycling dilemma.

The Plastic Redesign Project, a 32 state coalition of recycling officials, will meet with industry for REBOTEC '98 at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago on November 10th in order to encourage packagers to design plastic bottles so that to recycling can succeed economically.

Bill Bree from Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality said that with "the closure of Philips Petroleum's Plastics Recycling Division, all of the major firms have withdrawn from recycling, and many of the intermediate and smaller players are going out of business or are suffering economically. The problem is that the current cost to collect and process plastic bottles is more than the price of competing virgin resin in down markets," he said.

As reported in Plastics News (1/19/98):

"One business principal remains: To stay afloat, recycling must make economic sense when compared to other methods of waste management and resource conservation."

And, as pointed out more recently in Container Recycling Report (9/98):

"Thus, with prices today for all forms of plastics scrap weakening, recycling executives at municipal and waste hauling firms are under greater pressure to justify their plastics recycling efforts. This is particularly the case since the marginal cost of processing [excluding cost of collecting] plastic bottles is barely covered by current market prices."

"Our goal in this Project is to find bottle redesigns that are reasonable for packagers, but produce gains for recyclers, either by lowering the cost of upgrading the used bottles for reuse in new bottles, or by making it possible produce higher quality flake that can be sold into higher paying markets," according to Mike Alexander with the North East Recycling Council.

"Clearly, a cold economic analysis indicates that, for widespread plastics recycling to succeed over the long term, we need to reduce current handling costs (or, conversely, improve the prices paid by markets). Adding more upgrading costs for new packaging designs would be out of the question," said Steve Danahy from the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services.

"The ingenuity of the packaging industry is eminently up to the task of combining advances in an attractive package that improves instead of worsening the cost to recycle the container," stated Wes Chesbro a member of the California Integrated Waste Management Board, "and it is that constructive spirit that the Project is seeking to tap into."

Attached is an information packet about the upcoming roundtable.

# # #

For more information: Project Director Peter Anderson (608) 231-1100

 


the Plastic Redesign Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 28, 1998 (9:36PM)

(MADISON) The Plastic Redesign Project, a first-ever nationwide coalition of recycling officials from 32 states, today released its final Design for Recyclability Recommendations for Plastic Bottles (see attachment).

With current prices for recycled bottles headed to record low levels again, the issue among curbside program managers is whether to continue collecting plastic bottles in the face of daunting economic hurdles.

The goal of the Plastic Redesign Project is to substantially improve prices paid to recycling programs for their used plastic bottles by simplifying their design, thereby decreasing processing costs and increasing the value of the material.

"If the prices that communities receive for their plastic can be increased through improvements in bottle design," said Steve Danahy of the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services, "then we will be able to reestablish a solid place for plastic in recycling programs in this country. However, if we don't see more cooperation by product manufacturers with recyclers when new bottles are introduced," he said, "it is unlikely that we can expect financially hard pressed municipalities to continue to heavily subsidize plastics recycling in the coming years."

One example of bottle design issues receiving significant attention from the Project is the imminent introduction of beer in plastic bottles," said Bill Bree from Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality. "Some of the bottle design innovations that promise to provide adequate shelf life for beer seem likely to increase recyclers' processing costs, while others have the potential to leave upgrading costs unchanged. It's those constructive alternatives that the Project will be encouraging those brewers that require a plastic container to select," he said.

The states will be holding a roundtable, ROBETEC '98, with product manufacturers which use plastic bottles and others on November 9th in Chicago, in conjunction with the Society of Plastics Engineers' ARC '98 Conference. For registration information on ROBETEC, call 800/449-1010.

At that roundtable, the states will ask the manufacturers to incorporate the recommendations in the specifications that they issue to their package vendors.

For more information: Peter Anderson, 608/231-1100 (or cellular 608/219-0655)


Appendix F

Press Coverage of the Project

Recycling Times

Dec. 1, 1998

Industry Debates Plastics Recycling Debate

By Bethany Barber
bbarber@envasns.org

The plastic beer bottle debate took center stage at a recent roundtable discussion on improving the recyclability of plastic packaging.

Recycling industry and state representatives met with officials from major product manufacturers in mid-November for REBOTEC '98--the Recycling Bottle Technical Conference, sponsored by the Plastic Redesign Project (PRP), held in conjunction with the Society for Plastic Engineers' annual conference in Chicago (see Recycling Times, Nov. 2). The roundtable's theme coincided with the start-up of

Miller Brewing Co.'s test marketing of plastic beer bottles in three metropolitan regions (see Recycling Times, Nov. 16).

Representatives from Miller and bottle design company Continental PET Technologies defended their plastic beer bottle while listening to the concerns of recycling representatives regarding the new bottles.

While Miller Spokesman Scott Bussen told Recycling Times last month that the bottles were recyclable, Peter Anderson, PRP project director, pointed out significant problems the new bottles could cause for the recycling community.

First and foremost, Anderson said, if the liner barrier is not made from PET like the rest of the bottle, it will hinder the bottle's recyclability.

Other obstacles include the bottles' metallicized labels, which sink in a PET tank; aluminum caps, which requirespecial separation technology to keep from contaminating the PET stream; and the bottles' amber pigmentation, which limits the marketability of the recovered plastic.

"We are not interested in standing in the way of packaging technology," Anderson said, "We know we're not going to go to returnable bottles or stop plastic beer bottles. What we want is for the packaging developers to ask themselves when they are designing bottles, 'What impact will thishave on recycling?'

"We want the companies to challenge their designers and product engineers to come up with viable solutions," he added.

In his opening remarks at REBOTEC, Anderson listed some past innovations that have improved the recyclability of plastic bottles. These innovations include the elimination of base cups and aluminum caps on soda bottles, snap-on, easily removable labels for milk jugs, and removable aluminum seals. Recent innovations include a solution that removes barrier coatings.

However, new technology also is "throwing jiggers down the pipeline" for plastic recycling, Anderson said. Some of those innovations include heat-transfer labeling with bleeding ink, multi-layer bottles, metallicized labels, and the hotly debated pigmented HDPE milk jugs, which, according to Anderson, downgrades the value of the recovered materials by 30 percent.

"In the past," Anderson said, "when challenged to accommodate recyclers needs...designers have demonstrated their ingenious ability to engineer around the problems. However, in more recent years, less attention has been paid to the back- end concerns than there was in the first half of the 1990s."

Effective change, he added, "depends upon a resurgence of that creative engineering once again."

Officials from Proctor & Gamble, SC Johnson Wax, and Clorox accepted PRP's recommendations and plan to incorporate them into their packaging designs. Other companies in attendance--including Kraft Foods, Miller, and Stroh's Brewing--will continue to discuss the issue with PRP.

Companies that did not attend the meeting but expressed interest in working with PRP include Anheuser Busch, Coca-Cola, HJ Heinz, Dow Chemical, Nabisco, Dean Foods, Garelick Farms, Foremost Dairy, and Pepsi-Cola. PRP officials will meet with representatives from these companies in person, at trade shows, or via telephone conferences.

"If plastics recycling is to survive as a standard component of recycling programs in the next century," Anderson said, "we need for the packaging industry at the front end of the product cycle to pitch in too."


Plastics News

Nov. 2, 1998

RECYCLING COALITION CAN HELP DESIGNERS

Category: Opinion
Issue Date: 11-02-98
Page: 18

The Plastic Redesign Project continues to plug along, although plastics recycling no longer is anything close to a front-burner issue to most Americans.

Both of those facts are good news for this industry. First, plastics recycling should not be in the political forefront. Critics properly may question the plastics industry's commitment to recycling, nevertheless recycling is alive and well -- defections by major resin companies notwithstanding. Second, it is heartening to see the persistence of the Madison, Wis.-based Plastic Redesign Project, a coalition of recycling officials that has met regularly with project and bottle manufacturers, establishing a dialogue to ensure that packaging does not harm reclaimers needlessly.

Note that we are not discouraging packaging innovation. Innovation can be a boon to the industry -- consumers and recyclers. As an example, note the rise of single-serve plastic milk bottles. Even the pigmented varieties are easier to recycle than the coated-paperboard products that they replace.

But the Plastic Redesign Project can help designers avoid recycling nightmares before they hit the market. The project has taken aim at specific issues, recommending common-sense steps like phasing out aluminum caps on plastic bottles, minimizing printing on unpigmented bottles, and encouraging production of a low-cost, low-volume machine for detecting PVC at materials recovery facilities.

The Plastic Redesign Project is taking another step at a meeting dubbed Rebotec '98, scheduled for Nov. 10 in Chicago -- simultaneous with the Pack Expo trade show and the Society of Plastics Engineers' Annual Recycling Conference. Among other things, the group will discuss three new design recommendations, including two that could affect a coming wave of polyester beer bottles.

Plastic packagers and their customers should participate in this discussion and work to adopt these guidelines, which aim to keep recycling economically viable. Doing so is in the best interest of all parties.


Plastics News

Nov. 23, 1998

MILLER PLASTIC BEER BOTTLE MAKES
DRY RUN: AMBER COLOR, CAPS DRAW
FLAK FROM RECYCLERS

By: Steve Toloken PLASTICS NEWS STAFF
Category: News
Issue Date: 11-23-98
Page: 4

CHICAGO -- Miller Brewing Co. says its new PET beer bottle is recyclable, but some recycling officials are raising questions about its aluminum caps and the impact of amber bottles on the economics of recycling.

Miller's bottle maker, Continental PET Technologies Inc., and other plastics industry officials say the problems can be overcome, and that another steady stream of PET could be helpful to local recycling programs.

Miller rolled out a six-city trial of beer in 20-ounce and 1-liter PET bottles starting in November, the first large-scale distribution of beer in plastic bottles in the United States. The Miller bottle was the focus of discussion at Rebotec '98, a small gathering of state recycling and industry officials Nov. 10 in Chicago. Rebotec was sponsored by the Plastic Redesign Project, a 32-state coalition of recycling officials that aims to work with industry on packaging design. The project receives funds from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Peter Anderson, director of the redesign project, said recyclers are concerned about the aluminum caps contaminating the recycling stream. And he said separating the amber bottles from the recycling stream will add expenses to an already-fragile industry and require the development of a market for amber bottles. But he said he is confident the problems can be solved: "I think there are solutions that let them get their [market] share and don't cause us grief.''

Dan Barthold, director of environmental and energy engineering for Milwaukee-based Miller, said the brewery wants to work with recyclers and is new to plastics recycling. But he said the company is very reluctant to share details of product design before launches.

"You have to be the first on the shelf to get a little bit of market share,'' Barthold said during a Rebotec discussion. "Sometime [marketing officials] don't tell us about a package. We are a marketing company.''

Marketing issues dominate material choices, he said. "I would have a hell of a time walking into the marketing VP's office and saying you need to have a plastic cap, when he has been sold by his people on aluminum,'' Barthold said. In the trial, Miller is using aluminum caps because they have more "pizazz,'' he said.

Miller is putting any beer sold in amber glass bottles in amber plastic, to keep the beer's identity and minimize changes for the consumer, he said.

A clear version of the Miller bottle has passed tests of its recyclability, but the amber version and the aluminum caps have not been tested, said Warwick Hassan, general manager of business development for Continental PET Technologies in Florence, Ky. Continental PET is part of Owens-Illinois Inc. of Toledo, Ohio.

Continental is making the bottle for Miller, using a proprietary oxygen barrier. Hassan declined to release the test results, but has briefed the Washington-based Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers. APR manager Robin Cotchan said the group has concerns about the amber bottles, the aluminum cap and whether the label is easily removed.

"It is still very much in the testing phase, in APR's mind,'' she said. "We've got to find a market that will take all of the amber bottles down the line.''

Hassan said a significant amount of amber has been part of the plastics recycling stream, but Alan Silverman, director of business development for Constar Inc. in Philadelphia, said large amounts of amber bottles would be new for recyclers. Hassan also said he does not think aluminum caps are a significant problem because they are in the recycling stream now. But he said the company will be testing the amber bottles and aluminum caps, as well as how the bottles affect dyeing for carpet fibers--a big end market for PET bottles. The new bottle is just a trial and could be changed, he said. "This isn't going to replace the glass bottle overnight,'' Hassan said. "It is designed to meet some marketing restrictions they've had,'' such as selling beer bottles at sporting events and beaches.

Both Silverman and Barthold said that plastic beer bottle trials their companies have been involved in at sports stadiums in New York City and North Carolina have met with consumer approval. Younger drinkers relate well to plastic, Barthold said.

Plastic beer bottles remain more expensive than glass, but prices will drop, said Frank Kitchel, marketing director for Eval Co. of America, a Lisle, Ill. maker of ethylene vinyl alcohol oxygen-barrier additives for plastic bottles. Eval is within nine months of announcing a solution to dealing with large volumes of EVOH layers in the recycling stream, he said at Pack Expo 98, held Nov. 8-12 in Chicago. EVOH is used in ketchup bottles, a small part of the PET stream, but the volume expected from beer bottles will require some additional technology, Kitchel said. He declined to elaborate.

The Miller bottle is being tested in Los Angeles, Phoenix,

Miami, Dallas, San Antonio and Norfolk, Va.


Recycling Times

Oct. 19, 1998

Plastic Cap Contamination Cashes In
Study reveals cap-contaminated plastic regrind
preserves bottle integrity

By Bethany Barber
bbarber@envasns.org

It's pay-up time. That is what some plastics recyclers are saying, following a recent study showing that caps of different resin left in plastic bottle regrind have no significant impact on the quality of plastic bottles made from that regrind.

For those plastic recyclers, that could mean recycled plastic bottle manufacturers would pay as much for regrind with mixed-resin caps as they would for regrind with no such contamination.

The current price spread between the two can be as much as 10 cents per pound, according to Peter Anderson, president of Madison, Wis.-based RecycleWorlds Consulting. "The impact of caps in the HDPE stream--if not sorted out--is big."

Anderson also is project director for the Plastic Redesign Project (PRP), the organization that conducted the performance testing.

PRP--a coalition of 32 states funded by the U.S. EPA and state agencies in California, New York, and Wisconsin--examines ways to increase the price communities receive for their recycled bottles by making it easier and less expensive to process plastics while reducing contamination levels.

"We're working to get the price up...Right now, it doesn't pay anything, but if you get the price up," plastic recovery will pay for itself, he said, adding, "Money talks. Look how people bust their butts to get aluminum."

During its first phase, PRP teamed representatives from various cities with industry representatives to come up with solutions that were feasible for both the companies and the communities, Anderson said. In its second phase, PRP is testing their proposed solutions.

The cap performance study comprised two tests: a drop impact resistance test and a stress cracking test. In 60 days of testing using ASTM protocol, PRP compared control bottles made from virgin homopolymer and virgin copolymer HDPE without cap contamination with those that had up to 4-percent cap contamination of PP, HDPE, and LDPE (see sidebar, left, for test results).

Now what?

Armed with the successful results of its two tests, PRP has high hopes of convincing end users of the value of cap-contaminated plastic regrind.

"We feel that as a recycling industry, we don't have to make cap design changes to achieve that 10-cent increase," Anderson said.

The group, backed by the support of Proctor & Gamble and S.C. Johnson Wax, plans to lobby other plastic bottle end users to incorporate cap-contaminated regrind into their design specifications for their packaging vendors, Anderson said. PRP will present its results at REBOTEC '98 in Chicago next week (see sidebar, below).

Before the cap contamination tests, "we asked ourselves, 'Do we need to redesign the caps or prove to them [bottle manufacturers] that caps are not a problem?'" Anderson said. "Now we have our answer. Both tests showed they [cap-contaminated bottles] could perform far beyond standard performance requirements."

Now, he added, "hopefully the end markets will buy into it...And if they do, boy, will it pay off."

The Test Results:

Drop impact test

The testing compared bottles made from virgin resin with bottles made from recovered plastic mixed with caps.

Using 240 bottles--20 bottles for each of 12 bottle types with varying composition and contamination--molded by Proctor & Gamble with resin provided by Equistar, PRP performed the drop impact resistance test using S.C. Johnson Wax Bruceton drop-test equipment.

Filled with a nominal fill-height of tap water at 73 degrees Fahrenheit, the bottles were kept at room temperature for up to 24 hours to maintain a uniform temperature before testing.

The drop impact test procedure involves dropping the bottles from various heights to determine the bottle's "breaking point."

PRP started at 4 feet and went up to 6 1/2 feet. With every successful drop, the height was raised 6 inches, and for every failure, the height was dropped 6 inches until all 20 bottles from each composition were used.

The results showed that there were no failures with any of the bottle types up to the maximum height of 6 1/2 feet. PRP concluded that cap contamination up to 4 percent did not deteriorate the bottle's performance in a drop test. Stress cracking test

The environmental stress cracking resistance test, or what Peter Anderson, president of RecycleWorlds Consulting in Madison, Wis., jokingly refers to as the torture test, also tested a variety of plastic bottles with an array of compositions. PRP tested a total of 96 bottles--eight bottles for each of 12 compositions.

PRP conditioned the bottles for 48 hours at 73 degrees Fahrenheit. They were filled to 98-percent capacity with a 10-percent Igepal solution and water mixture.

Placed in a plastic bag for liquid containment, the bottles were heated in ovens at 122 degrees Fahrenheit with a brick placed on top to create a top weight of 3.4 pounds. Using an inspection mirror and focusing flashlight, testers checked the bottles daily for visible signs of leakage.

During the 60-day test, the testers did not detect leakage until the bottles were removed from the ovens. At that point, four bottles had some measure of cracking. Occurring in the same general area, the three bottles exhibited cracks along the mold line that were 1/4- to 3/8-inch long, producing about six to 12 drops of leakage per bottle. The failed bottles varied in their composition, including one from the virgin control group. PRP concluded that despite the four failed bottles, the test was a success.

The failures came from the homopolymer stream used in milk jugs which do not use regrind anyway, Anderson said.

--Bethany Barber

Roundtable: Better Recycling By Design

The Plastic Redesign Project (PRP) will host a day-long roundtable next week to bring state recycling representatives and companies that use plastic container packaging together to discuss plastic recycling solutions through better bottle design.

Held in conjunction with the Society for Plastics Engineers' annual recycling conference in Chicago, REBOTEC '98 (Recycling Bottle Technical Conference) will take place Nov. 10.

Backing up its recommendations with studies such as the cap-contamination test (see article, above), PRP hopes to encourage companies to incorporate its design suggestions into their packaging specifications issued to packaging vendors.

For more information on PRP or to participate in REBOTEC '98, call Peter Anderson, project director, at (608) 231-1100, or e-mail at recycle@msn.fullfeed.com


Recycling Times

Nov. 24, 1997

New Pigmented HDPE Milk Jug Worries Recyclers
Introduction may imperil already faltering natural HDPE prices

By Heidi Ridgley

As if faltering natural HDPE prices are not bad enough, HDPE recyclers now must contend with a new white pigmented plastic milk jug, introduced by a major dairy in New England.

If the Chelsea, Mass.-based H.P. Hood Dairy gains a market advantage using the new white plastic, other dairies most likely will follow suit. The move is potentially devastating for processors and local recycling programs, said Peter Anderson, president of the Madison, Wis.-based RecycleWorlds Consulting.

Prices for pigmented or colored HDPE normally stand about 50- to 60-percent lower than unpigmented or natural HDPE prices. During an HDPE market down cycle--such as the one that began in mid-September--colored material becomes almost impossible to sell, a scary thought for processors and municipal recycling coordinators alike. "The most inefficient [material] to collect is plastic," said George Dreckmann, recycling coordinator for the city of Madison, Wis. "We're already getting beat up by anti-recyclers because it's not cost-effective to collect."

If the pigmented milk jugs take hold, Dreckmann said he would consider taking plastic off the collection trucks and putting RMP on instead. "I get more [money] per ton for HDPE, but I can keep a truck out longer--almost all day--rather than making the two dumps a day required with plastic," he said. "It will be interesting to see the public's perception of plastic if they can no longer recycle it," he said, adding that one reason people purchase plastic is because they can recycle it.

"I wonder what will happen to the dairy's market share if we stop collecting it and bottling companies stick with aluminum and glass because it's recyclable," Dreckmann added. "If they introduce the new container into Wisconsin, we'll go to war over it."

But before the situation gets that far, Anderson hopes to get both sides to the table for more peaceable negotiations. As part of the ongoing Plastic Redesign Project (see Recycling Times, Sept. 29), Anderson is working with industry to identify mutually beneficial solutions on the packaging front.

"Recycling needs shouldn't dominate packaging concerns on the front end," he said. "But they should be balanced with back-end concerns. We have to educate the packaging industry as to how precarious our situation is, get their cooperation, and show them we're anxious to work together."

Anderson said if plastic recycling is to endure, prices have to move higher.

"If it's not viable, it means there might not be any plastic recycling at all in the future," he said, adding that 90 percent of municipal recycling programs have to meet the economic test.

H.P. Hood's marketing director could not be reached for comment. However, the company released a written statement that said the dairy's reason for switching packaging material revolves around vitamin degradation due to UV light--and that the bottle remains 100-percent recyclable.

Dreckmann said that while the dairy's claims may be valid, "it's old news." He recalled the use of the argument years before, when the dairy industry moved from glass to paper cartons. "The fact that they're now all of a sudden making the switch, makes me think it's more a marketing ploy," he said.

Dreckmann is not alone in his criticism. "Milk came in clear glass for decades," said a recycling coordinator in Northern California. "I've never heard of any vitamin deficiencies in this country--at least not from well-lit milk," he said. "But I have heard of bovine-growth hormones, excessive antibiotics, pesticide residues, and other concerns about the dairy industry that should be worked on before things like changing the color of their plastics."

If vitamin deficiency is the dairy's main concern, Anderson cited a variety of options open to the industry, from shielding supermarket floor lights with an ultraviolet light blocker to adding a colorless UV blocker to the bottle itself.

"If this was the case of someone [pushing these packaging changes] without thinking about the recycling impacts, we could be helping other packagers not to make the same mistake," Anderson said. "The packaging industry is a very innovative one. There's no challenge posed to them they couldn't solve. Our problem is getting them to more systematically talk with us from the get-go."

When One Stumbles, The Other Falls: The HDPE Story

When prices for natural HDPE slip, colored HDPE processing prices also suffer.

Since colored already commands only half the price of natural, the first inclination of many processors and collectors is to stop collecting it. To offset this pressure, MRFs have begun investigating the combo bale--a mixture of colored and natural HDPE jugs.

And now that pigmented milk jugs threaten to flood the market, the combo bale should garner even more attention. Because it includes natural in the bale, collectors can charge a higher price than colored, but MRFs can reduce their costs because it only

1. In addition, during the course of the Project, the funders and interested parties have been sent copies of all of the working documents and communications on an ongoing basis through a listserve.

2. Issues concerning the recycled content in plastic bottles are also relevant, but are not dealt with by this Project.

3. Preliminary Recommendations of the Project's Chicago Conference (Jan. '95) ("Preliminary Recommdnations"), at p. 7.

4. This problem did not arise in the PET stream because, unlike HDPE which floats in water, PET is heavier than water. That permits the lighter than water caps to be easily floated off in reclaimers' inexpensive sink/float tanks.

5. Preliminary Recommendations, at p. 31 ("Further research needs to be done to outline possible techniques to achieve this goal economically. The Project is presently undertaking that research with a low molecular weight version of the block copolymer in a compression mold.

6. Preliminary Recommendations, at p. 31 ("Research is pending in this area and will be included in the Final Report.")

7. Some dairies have moved to pigment their natural HDPE one gallon milk bottles white or yellow. One of the reasons put forward for pigmentation is because of concerns that light might cause damage to the flavor or vitamin content of the milk. However, a review of the published technical literature on the subject shows that, while light damage can be demonstrated in the laboratory with sufficient duration and wattage, there is no field research to demonstrate whether this concern extends to real-world conditions. Another reason that has been generally acknowledged by industry observers for pigmentation of one-half and one gallon bottles is as a marketing stratagem. The Plastic Redesign Project recommends that were light damage shown to exist in real-world conditions, remediation be accomplished by yellow lights or filters in the supermarket shelf instead of pigmentation and otherwise not be used.

8. At the time these recommendations were written, except for test markets beer was not yet sold in plastic bottles, such a multi-layer plastic bottle, in the U.S., and this limited the development of a comprehensive design principle for beer applications in plastic. At least three vendors are offering container designs that are aimed at providing sufficient shelf life for beer to be packaged in PET or PET variant bottles. These include polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) copolymers, PET layered with ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) or nylon, and barrier coatings. Various representations have been made for each as to their impact on recycling, but none have been made generally available for independent validation at this time. Beer producers are requested to ask vendors to demonstrate whether they can comply with the General Design Principles and only work with those vendors which can. In addition, beer producers considering packaging in a plastic bottle that is tinted a color other than green are requested to only do so if the color is applied just to the surface of the bottle and can be readily removed during processing without additional cost and without bleeding, or otherwise be accomplished with a label that has a specific gravity less than one and has a dispersible adhesive.

9. The Project has just completed Environmental Stress Crack Resistance and Bruceton Drop tests using ASTM standards to determine whether there are any adverse impacts on homopolymer and copolymer HDPE bottles from cap contamination at 4% levels by weight from PP with melt flows of 2 and 20, HDPE with melt flows of 0.4 and 25 and LDPE with a melt flow of 25. (Cap contamination in recycled bottles regrind is generally considered to be less than 2% by weight.). The conclusion from the test is that there is no adverse impact from such cap contamination. End users are asked to advise their bottle molders that provide them with recycled bottles to accept recovered resin that includes cap residues within these parameters as a less costly alternative to redesigned cap material or molding processes. Copies of the test results are available on request by calling 608/231-1100.

10. One recent label strategy for milk bottles eliminates the need for using any adhesive, while providing a label that remains firmly secure regardless of condensation. This involves the use of a snap-on LDPE label in conjunction with a modified bottle side wall for which the mold contains an indentation for the label to be inset where it will not be subject to slippage. One supplier of these labels is MRI Packaging, and a dairy/molder which molds such bottles is Garelick Farms. The Plastic Redesign Project provides this example to be illustrative of how to meet the performance specification only and does not intend for the example to be prescriptive. The Project provides these company names to facilitate implementation only and does not make product endorsements. Other vendors with the same or alternative means to meet the performance recommendation are requested to inform the Project so that they can be added to this note.

11. New packages are presently considering the use of heat transfer labels. These forms of labels typically bleed, and increase processing costs which is disfavored.


Home Page
Project Overview - Publications
Coalition Members - Members Only - Contact Information
Links - Join the Plastic Redesign Project