The nightmare with shrink wrap labels on recyclables

Plastic bottlesAs more consumers are getting the message and upping their recycling efforts, plastic recyclers are facing a different, more challenging issue – the use of full shrink wrap labels by manufacturers on otherwise recyclable containers.

The Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers, whose members represent more than 90 percent of the processors of postconsumer plastic bottles in the US, Canada and Mexico, have formed a group to address the rapid growth of full wrap shrink sleeve labels in the marketplace.

Full wrap shrink sleeve labels “represent a nightmare for most recyclers,” says APR director Steve Alexander, because they render the containers they cover mostly unrecyclable. APR members are now seeing full wrap labels on an expanded number of containers and bottles, Alexander says. The initial concern was on PET bottles, said Alexander. Now they’re seeing full wrap shrink labels on polypropylene bottles and containers as well.

As the use of shrink wrap packaging expands, recyclers are challenged about removing it

As the use of shrink wrap packaging expands, recyclers are challenged about removing it

Apparently most sorting technology fails, which leaves the material itself unrecyclable and unusable for a “second life”. The newly formed group has  published a list of principles it would like labels to meet to eliminate the contamination caused by the use of the full wrap label. Alexander says technology and equipment manufacturers, major brand owners, and other APR members look forward to working with the label manufacturers and other groups to develop a solution that works for everyone.

Meanwhile, it appears that a lot of what consumers are trying to recycle isn’t getting where we hoped it would. If the shrink wrap problem isn’t solved, a great deal of what we’re putting into our recycling bins may well end up in landfills. Let’s hope that manufacturers and tech folks step up and find a solution to this important issue – and soon.


One Response

  1. It’s an excellent argument for reducing rather than recycling. I personally believe that the only way is to find alternatives to plastic … period! Thanks for a very informative article!

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