Rigid PET Thermoform Plastics Recycling Finds a Continued Strong Supporter in Placon

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Speaking at SPI’s Recycling Tech Summit, Placon’s CEO states hurdles to rigid PET thermoform recycling are engineering challenges and can be overcome.

PET thermoform packaging, thermoform PET recycling, plastics recycling

Placon's new Envisions packaging is produced with post-consumer PET thermoforms and bottles

Incorporating 15% thermoforms in PET reclamation requires no additional use of virgin PET by the extruder.

Discussing some of the difficulties its faced when recycling thermoforms, CEO Dan Mohs of Placon, a North American leader of plastic packaging for the food, retail and medical device markets, stated at this year’s SPI Recycling Tech Summit, that some of the challenges may be overstated.

Thermoform recycling has its complexities. Having larger surface areas that can be covered by pressure sensitive labels which can present challenges to optical sorters, while using different adhesives than bottles are just some of the issues Placon’s EcoStar facility faces. EcoStar, opened by Placon in 2011 on its corporate campus, reclaims, recycles and extrudes post-consumer food and non-good grade rollstock from curbside collected polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and thermoforms, turning discarded PET back into rollstock for reuse as thermoformed packaging.

For over two years EcoStar has been purchasing 100% thermoform bales from throughout the US and Canada. Within its 70,000 sq. ft. facility, EcoStar engineers have been researching and testing ways to overcome labeling challenges by combining a ratio of 15% post-consumer thermoforms with post-consumer PET bottle content. The result of the two container types churning together in the recycling process has led to aggressive abrasion of the labels which has enabled the company to utilize the thermoforms in its rollstock blends. The abrading of labels by mixing the two material types has also reduced the need for caustic chemicals in the wash which are often necessary to breakdown strong label adhesives.

With thermoforms having more mass per unit than PET bottles, separation of thermoforms is easier than bottles according to Mohs. He recommends partnering with manufacturers who use post-consumer material and who can design packaging for future recyclability which includes adding smaller labels that are easily removable and can be optically read.

In 2014 alone EcoStar has recycled 1.2 million pounds of thermoforms. The facility’s extruded PET rollstock with approximately 10% recycled thermoform content is currently found in its stock retail and food packaging lines.

For over 45 years Placon has been a leading custom designer and manufacturer of thermoformed plastic packaging with an extensive line of stock packaging products and environmentally-friendly recycled rollstock materials for the retail, food and medical markets. Continuously setting the bar in thermoform packaging and sustainable material solutions, Placon provides innovative, high-quality and safe thermoformed packaging products that harness the power of tomorrow’s technology and design to solve customers’ challenges today. According to Plastics News, Placon ranks among the top 20 thermoformers in North America. For more information visit http://www.placon.com.

EcoStar is a North American recycler and extruder of high-clarity, thin-gauge rigid PET rollstock for thermoformed food, retail and non-sterile medical packaging applications. One of the largest in the Midwest, the WI-based EcoStar facility reclaims and recycles over 1 billion curbside collected plastic bottles and thermoforms a year, extruding them into ultra-clear, 100% recyclable PET rollstock. For more information visit http://www.ecostarplastics.com.

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Melissa Jacobson
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