News | April 21, 1999

Miller Bottle Passes Recycling Test

By Bill Noone

Much flap has been made over the recyclability of plastic beer bottles, including Miller Brewing's five-layer construction, which includes two oxygen scavenging barrier layers. (See related article). However, Tom Bavaria, VP of Plastics Technology for resin recycler Envipco (Riverside, CA), says that the Continental PET Technologies Inc. (CPT) bottle made for Miller has passed Envipco's extensive testing for recycling.

"Continental PET came to us after they had conducted in-house lab testing and asked us if we could remove the barrier layer and make a good end-use product with the material," Bavaria told a crowd of packaging professionals at Packaging Strategies '99 in Atlanta in March. Envipco ran the container through its standard process, including sortation, granulation, aspiration of labels, pre-wash with sinkfloat, washing with chemicals, another sinkfloat operation, rinsing, aluminum removal, fines removal, then finished aspiration.

Envipco took in excess of 10,000 lbs of multilayer material and blended it at a 10% beer bottle, 90% standard soda bottle mix, which is about 10 times higher than what the recycler thinks it'll get back over the next 12-18 months. The material was evaluated after each stage of the process. More than 95% removal of the barrier level was achieved in the final product. Since the barrier layers make up only 10% of the bottle and only 5% of it is left, the bottle can be successfully recycled, said Bavaria.

He also pointed out that the metalized label, considered an environmental sticking point, does not bleed and is, therefore, not a problem. "We successfully removed it and ended up with a clean material." Additionally, the screw-cap will be converted from partially aluminum to all-plastic.

"As the bottle stands today, we are able to recycle it successfully," he said. "The bottle does not impact our current end-users, which are other bottle and sheet manufacturers."