Manufacturers have a new option for recycled polyethylene terephthalate containers, the use of which has been limited in holding food.
It comes just in time to help meet the recycled content requirements taking effect in Oregon and California Jan. 1, 1995, and Florida's advance disposal fee. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has issued a letter of no-objection to Johnson Controls Inc., Manchester, Mich., for its Supercycle material, a superclean resin derived from post-consumer recycled PET bottles. Until now, although RPET has been used in percentages as high as 100% for products such as household cleaners, it has been limited for food-contact uses due to concerns about contamination.
Although no specifics are available, a number of food companies reportedly are testing the material. With deadlines looming, the first commercial application is expected to debut within weeks, most likely in Florida where the advance disposal fee for PET bottles increases to two cents on Jan. 1.
The patent-pending Supercycle process includes high-intensity washing, high-temperature (500 F) and other "advanced cleaning procedures" to eliminate any contamination. Rigorous testing for FDA showed the process removes a wide range of contaminants, said Doug Svik, manager of marketing for JCI's Plastic Container division.
The process also is said to be less expensive than the depolymerization and coextrusion methods currently used to produce RPET packaging acceptable for food contact. Depolymerization chemically breaks down PCR bottles and rebuilds the constituent ingredients into new resin. Coextrusion sandwiches recycled resin between virgin layers.
The Supercycle resin produced by the JCI process reportedly can be used at any percentage, including 100%, for containers filled at any temperature. However, the company expects most packagers will choose a 25% Supercycle/ 75% virgin blend since this is what most pending and proposed state legislation specifies and the superclean resin currently is more expensive than virgin.
Now that the letter of no-objection has been received, JCI is expanding capacity for the superclean RPET, which will be used internally in JCI's bottle-making facilities. "We're working to double our capacity as quickly as possible to 20 million pounds per year," said Svik. "We're committed to expanding capacity as the market warrants. At the same time we're also looking at increasing output of nonfood-grade RPET." Although the RPET mix produced at the company's Plastic Container Recovery Center in Novi, Mich., is changing, Svik said the increase in food-grade RPET production will not affect commitments to JCI's existing nonfood-grade customers.