SKC, a subsidiary of South Korea-based SK Group that produces polyethylene terephthalate (PET) film, has launched a plastic shrink sleeve label that can be recycled along with the PET bottles it decorates — no removal of the shrink sleeve is necessary prior to recycling, and no special recycling equipment is needed.
The results of a recent sustainable packaging survey conducted by SK Group suggest that the shrink sleeve, known as the SKC Ecolabel, comes at a good time for consumers. In the survey of 1,506 US adults, results showed that only 38% of respondents are “completely confident” they are recycling correctly at home. Fully 42% said they were not aware that some recyclable containers, such as plastic bottles, cannot be easily recycled unless labeling and other packaging materials are removed first.
At the same time, consumers support recycling and environmentally friendly products: 72% of all survey respondents — and 76% of those age 18 to 34 — said they were “somewhat” or “completely likely” to give preference to products that use packaging that can be easily recycled or reused in new packaging or products.
Furthermore, 90% of all respondents said they believe school-age children should be taught to recycle responsibly, and 64% said they were likely to buy one product rather than another based on the product being “eco-friendly.” That inclination was even more pronounced in younger consumers, with 74% of 18- to 34-year-old respondents saying they were likely to purchase the more eco-friendly of two products.
As a recyclable shrink sleeve label, Ecolabel addresses several of those consumer preferences and concerns. Unlike polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) shrink sleeves, the new label does not cause clumping and can stay on a PET bottle throughout recycling. The label can be printed with non-staining, washable ink, which rinses off during the recycling wash process; no contamination of flake or wash water occurs. The ink-free flake can then be dried and extruded into clear, recycled PET resin for use in manufacturing more bottles.
Ecolabel is made with a proprietary PET-compatible labeling material that’s based on existing thermal contraction film. SKC has numerous granted and pending US patents for the technology; several of the granted patents refer to the material as a heat-shrinkable polyester film. Commercial applications for Ecolabel include PET soft drink bottles and milk bottles.