While demand is strong for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle flakes, that is not yet the case for PET flakes made from thermoformed containers. In the U.S., roughly 15 percent of PET thermoformed materials, such as clamshells, cups, trays and boxes, are recovered from the recycling stream, according to American Starlinger-Sahm Inc., Fountain Inn, South Carolina.
“In the North American market, postconsumer thermoforms are generally not captured in the PET recycling stream,” says Jeff Cornell, vice president of sales at American Starlinger-Sahm. “This is changing with new legislation and improved technologies to sort out this valuable material.”
Because PET thermoforms have a lower intrinsic viscosity (IV) than PET bottles and are amorphous, the material needs pretreatment, the company says.
For tray-to-tray recycling, the IV of the sheet and the final thermoformed packaging must be kept at an optimal level. That is why in 2019, Starlinger Viscotec presented a turnkey solution designed to close the tray recycling loop with deCON iV+ decontamination dryer.
“With Viscotec’s experience, we are poised to meet the demand for true tray-to-tray circular economy requirements with the deCONiv+, offering crystallization, super cleaning decontamination and iv increase all in one compact unit,” Cornell says.
The deCONiV+ is designed for the production of dry, IV increased, crystallized, dedusted postconsumer flakes, Starlinger says. The unit processes thermoform flakes, bottle flakes or in-house skeleton waste and is installed directly in front of a production extruder.
Thanks to the increase of IV in the deCON iV+ in every recycling cycle, the material’s IV losses are recovered, and quality is optimized, according to the company.