Obstacles to water bottle recyclability
Multiple factors, including light-weighting, labels, colorants, can negatively impact recycling.
Many water bottlers are using much lighter-weight PET containers to meet sustainability initiatives. However, research conducted by Plastic Technologies, Inc. found that ultra-lightweight bottles can negatively impact the effectiveness of post-consumer package waste sorting and recycling systems.
There has been a growth in popularity of single-serve water bottles: consumers like them for their convenience and price, while PET resin suppliers have benefited from this surge. But not a lot of research has focused on the performance impact and the validation of sustainability assumptions. PTI, a provider of plastic packaging, wanted to provide brand owners with additional information to facilitate the decision making process.
Since the early 2000s, the weight of a 16.9 oz. water bottle has been reduced in half. The technological enhancements in this field have enabled cost reduction and contributed to positive environmental impact. And many assume that lighter weight only has positive benefits, but the study found a wide variation in performance, weight and recyclability in the bottles it examined, all sourced from retail store shelves in the United States, Europe and India.
It discovered that lighter weight, design and label choices have an impact on post-consumer recovery. The decisions made during the design phase not only have to meet physical performance requirements, but also should not negatively impact current recycling systems.
The study showed that many of the samples did not factor in generally-accepted recyclability guidelines during the design process. In some scenarios, the bottle color, label, glue or ink components had a significant impact on package recyclability.
The study offers data on package weights, wall thickness, pressurization, volumes, optical quality, color, haze and recycling performance of various commercially-available PET water bottles.
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