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The Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR), whose members represent more than 90% of the processors of postconsumer plastic bottles in the United States, Canada and Mexico, formed the group in response to the growth of full bottle shrink wrap labels that are showing up in the marketplace.

"Full wrap shrink sleeve labels are a critical issue facing plastics recycling today," said Steve Alexander, APR Director. "While they are extremely popular with brand owners, they represent a nightmare for most recyclers, and render the containers they cover mostly unrecyclable.” Alexander added that APR members are now seeing full wrap labels on an expanded number of
containers and bottles. “While the initial concern was on PET bottles, we are now seeing these full wrap shrink labels contaminating polypropylene bottles and containers. The problem continues to grow."

According to John Standish, APR’s Technical Director, the problem is that most sorting technology fails on 2 fronts. “First, the sorting equipment cannot identify the resin composition of the container that the label is covering. Second, many of the labels are not properly removed in the washing process, causing the label to sink with the container in the normal sink/float process. This essentially contaminates the entire stream of material, and makes it unusable for a second life application.’

Alexander pointed out that recyclers are usually the last to know about these types of innovations. "The innovator and creator of the innovation are the first to know, the container manufacturer and brand company are next. Only after the product is introduced in the market, and made available for recycling, is the recycler made aware of the innovation. The goal of APR is to work with innovators so they understand the implications on the recyclability of the container.”

“Many APR members- technology and equipment manufacturers, major brand owners, and others are actively working to develop solutions to the problems. We look forward to working with the label manufacturers and other groups to develop a solution that works for all participants in the stream, from innovation to reclamation. The last thing a brand owner wants to see is a new innovation that they have invested in rendering their container non-recyclable. We do not want that either. Contamination is the last thing we want to see in our material," he added. 

The APR label group will be meeting again at the APR Membership Meeting next month in Baltimore. The group has published a list of principles it would like labels to meet in order to eliminate the contamination caused by the use of the full wrap label. This list is available on the APR website at www.plasticsrecycling.org.

The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) is the national trade association representing companies who acquire, reprocess and sell the output of more than 90 percent of the postconsumer plastic processing capacity in North America. Founded in 1992, its membership includes independent recycling companies of all sizes, processing numerous resins.

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