Speaking at the recent AIPIA (Active & Intelligent, Packaging Industry Association) World Congress in Amsterdam last month, Johan Kerver, CEO, FiliGrade, said we need plastics for a lot of reasons but the problem is how we discard them.
“We need to behave properly in respect to plastics. Sorting is very difficult and unsorted plastics have no value, which leads to a ‘poisoned environment’. Transparent PET is okay but opaque and black is not,” he said.
According to Kerver, Petcore Europe is suggesting two alternative options to recommend to the industry; tracers (chemical markers) or watermarks.
Petcore - PET Container Recycling Europe is a Brussels-based non-profit European trade association.
The advantages of tracers he said are that they can be sprayed onto a bottle, they are invisible in daylight and ready-to-market.
However, there are a limited number of unique tracers, it leaves a chemical residue and the cost per item for spraying or printing in his opinion, is not good enough.
The case for watermarks, he said, is that they can be inserted in the mold, they are readable in normal light conditions, and there exist millions of unique watermarks.
He said there are no chemicals involved, no electronics, no residue and they are cheap to produce and usable on labels.
“The final tests of watermarks on plastics bottles will be carried out in the first half of 2019, that’s really good because we are wasting too much time and its now time to act. Recycling with a watermark is cheaper than landfill, which makes it a very attractive alternative for manufacturers,” he added.
“Recyclable sorting is the goal but the watermark can also be used for Copy Detection (authentication) and product information and it can be used on all types of plastics from bottles to trays, Jerrycans, crates, foils, shrink sleeves and IML (In-Mold Labelling) tubs."
Kerver said the process works by inserting a watermark into every item, which is printed all over the object.
“The watermark gives information about the item. It can be used on transparent, opaque, black, colored single or multilayer products and is engraved in the mold.
“It can also be used in thermoforming. The only cost involved is in creating the mold so there is no cost per item, only once to produce it. The watermarks are nearly invisible to the human eye, which makes the bottles aesthetic and it is readable at high speed, 4metres per second, higher than the average waste belt at 3 metres per second, it’s a one solution fits all.
“One major advantage is it has no residue, which is a big issue, so if a bottle is shredded nothing is left of the watermark and it won’t pollute the environment.”
However, according to Kerver, the problem right now is the market is slow for multinationals and manufacturers say that they don’t have the right sorting machines.
“All innovations start with change: but change is difficult because numerous parties have different goals and challenges, the first step is now being taken just on bottles and an anonymous French company is going to build the bottle machine.”
He said companies that are already onboard include: Nouryon, Schoeller Allibert, Dutch Awareness.