Designing for the environment
PETCO’s top tips on how to design easily recyclable packaging
We live in a world where take, make, dispose – a so-called linear economy – is a way of life for many South Africans. We now know that this way of life is not sustainable. We must therefore urgently transition to a circular economy, one which looks at waste as a resource and aims to design products for the environment.
This was the main focus of PETCO’s ‘Designing for the environment’ seminar held in Johannesburg and Cape Town in October. Designers and manufacturers of packaging, as well as brand owners and marketing teams gained insight into how to best design packaging that is easily recycled by the technologies available in South Africa.
Cheri Scholtz, CEO of PETCO, said that designing for the environment is about product stewardship, about forward-thinking initiatives, about innovation and breaking new ground to achieve never-before-seen solutions.
‘To design for the environment, we need to reduce the overall impact of a product on the environment before it enters the production stage. Thus, it is important to open dialogue between all stakeholders in the product value chain to increase the products that are designed more mindfully,’ she added.
PETCO will be re-launching their ‘Guide to designing for the environment’ in the very near future. This guide provides guidelines for those wanting to make their PET packaging easily recyclable, including clear, concise information to ensure packaging is compatible with the available recycling infrastructure.
Bottle grading system helps with design for recycling
a – PETCO, Designing for Environment (Pearl)
PETCO’s recycling programme manager, Pearl Molepo demonstrated PETCO’s new online bottle grading system which the organisation wants to pilot with convertors so it can be developed further and become a useful tool for the industry. This remarkable digital tool helps a designer or convertor to grade how recyclable their product is or will be one manufactured.
The tool takes into account a myriad of factors, including colour, weight, volume, shape and plastics composition (eg. 100% PET, additives used, etc). It also takes into account the closures used, labels and sleeves, adhesives, inks, content residues and so much more.
Co-extrusion technology can enhance recycling capabilities
Serioplast’s Claude Naidoo, plant manager at the Boksburg factory, says his organisation are trying to help brand owners to become ‘more compliant’ with regards design for recycling.
“We need to change the mindset of the brand owner and help them to design their packaging for the optimal end-of-life result, which is just as important as the performance of the packaging,” said Naidoo. “We also need to focus on things like ease of disassembly; how easily the packaging can be deconstructed and re-used.”
New process technologies make possible the use of recycled resins in plastic components. For example, in two component or sandwich moulding, two shot moulding and coextrusion for profile and blow moulding, two materials are combined in a component part. The second layer can be used as an outlet for recycled materials, while the skin, second shot and outer layer can use virgin materials/
Serioplast has invested in co-extrusion technology to enhance its capabilities.
“When the impact of our products on the environment are considered first in all life cycle stages of business and product processes, then, and only then, are we on the path to sustainable actions,” Naidoo added.
Beauty and the ‘bust’
a – PETCO, Designing for Environment (Chandru)
Extrupet’s joint managing director, Chandru Wadhwani, explained that the National Environmental Management Waste Act directly allows for targeting of economic instruments (taxes or levies) to specific waste streams to serve as incentives or disincentives to encourage a change in behavior towards the generation of waste and waste management by all sectors of society.
“The ‘polluter pays’ principle shifts responsibility for waste generation from consumers to producers, which is in line with the principle of EPR,” said Wadhwani. “The rationale is that waste generators themselves often have little control over the amount of waste associated with the products they purchase.”
Such decisions often rest with producers, who can reduce waste generation by changing the inputs and materials used in their products, or by rethinking product design.
“Packaging should be designed to satisfy technical, consumer and customer needs in a way that minimizes environmental impact by using the minimum amount of resources and maximizing the scope for recovery,” Wadhwani concluded.
“Ultimately, the circular economy is about organisations turning things on their head and re-thinking how their resources are managed to create financial, environmental and social benefits, both in the long- and short term,” he added.
Wadhwani referred to the new Standard BS 8001 which sets out two things:
- What the circular economy is and why moving towards a more circular mode of operation might be beneficial and relevant to an organisation, both now and in the future.
- How to implement the principles of the circular economy within an organisation to create value through process, product, service or business model innovation.
“This guide can help define key materials of concern and define resource management risks and opportunities,” said Wadhwani. “Standard BS 8001 wants to embed product design improvements from the outset, and provides a handy design improvement check list.”
Pointers to help designers
- Materials of different densities should be used to facilitate the separation of incompatible materials during mechanical shredding or crushing, or during the water-based washing process.
- Combinations of different types of plastic with the same density ranges should be avoided
- Fillers change the density of the plastic and should be avoided or their use minimized as they lower the quality of the recycled material.
- Unpigmented polymer has the highest recycling value and the widest variety of uses.
- To decrease the amount of residue in packaging (i.e. bottles) design the bottle or pack with a wide neck, consider using a pack that can be stood to be inverted to ease emptying, and use non-stick additives to reduce the cling of contents.
- Where a composite material is needed, consider the use of thin layers.
- Laminates, especially those of <100 microns, are not cost-effective to recycle.
- Avoid direct printing onto PET.
- Don’t use PET closures, closure liners, cap sleeves or seals on PET bottles. Rather use PP or HDPE.
- Avoid using metal caps on PET bottles.
- Sleeves and safety seals should be designed to completely detach from the container or else they become contaminants in the recycling process.
- Use water soluble (at 60-80C) and hot melt alkali soluble adhesives.
- Paper labels on plastic film represent a significant problem for conventional recycling
- Labels should not delaminate in the washing process. PE and PP are preferred label materials.
- Foil safety seals that leave remnants of foil or adhesive should be avoided.
- Heavy metal inks should not be used for printing as they may contaminate the recovered plastic.
- Inks that would dye the wash solution should be avoided as they may discolour the recovered plastic, diminishing its value.
- Avoid using silica on energy drink bottles, or metal springs on dispenser bottles.
- Even though there is a progressive request from retailers for RFIDs (radio frequency identification devices) to be used on packaging, they are undesirable from a recyclability point of view as the adhesives and metals reduce efficiencies and contaminate the recycling stream.