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Circular Economy / 17.12.2019

Switching from colour to clear transparent, the great leap forward

Switching from colour to clear transparent, the great leap forward

From the PLASTIC SENSE Foundation, we welcome the COCA COLA initiative to switch its PET bottles of Sprite and Aquabona Singular from green to transparent. This action will be a turning point in the recycling of PET packaging.

In line with the guidelines recently published by this Foundation, transparency of the thermoformed PET trays, as well as PET bottles, is no longer an option but a necessity for guaranteeing its recyclability.

Supporting the role model of the global beverage giant, the Plastic Sense Foundation urges food packers and retailers to implement and take into consideration this requirement for PET tray transparency, if they have not done yet.

Why does transparency play a key role in PET recyclability?

Source: NIVAPLAST RECICLADOS

PET containers are ideal for the food industry due to their transparency and high strength. In addition, thanks to their lightness, the resources needed to manufacture and transport them are reduced and, therefore, have a lower carbon footprint, compared to heavier materials.

What ends up placing PET containers on the top of sustainable packaging is their recyclability: PET is a very fine material, easily processable and that enables the containers to be smoothly recycled through highly optimized, profitable and efficient mechanical recycling techniques and processes to this day. To ensure 100% recyclability, it is enough to meet basic design requirements, including the transparency of the PET used. This is the only way that the production loop is closed, that is, that packaging waste, either bottles or thermoformed trays, is transformed into new containers.

Contamination by colour results in a drastic decrease in the potential applications of the recycled material. Colour material in the recycling stream causes opacity and loss of transparency in the recycled product and this limits the correct visualization by the consumer of the packaged food. For this reason, the removal of colour is a critical point to obtain a high-quality recycled PET in food contact applications. Because of this, industry requires these quality standards to obtain a transparent and colourless material that enable to allocate their product to any packaging application with functionality and recyclability guarantees.