Making The Switch From OPS To PET Packaging

The Benefits Of PET Packaging

PET (polyethylene terephlate) is one of the best packaging choices for many foods and beverages because it is hygienic, strong, lightweight, shatterproof and retains freshness. It is most commonly used to package carbonated soft drinks and water. The wide-spread adoption of PET for bottles has helped  increase the use of PET in other applications including thermoformed PET sheet. Virgin PET sheet’s compliance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations has resulted in its use in a diversity of food applications including such packaging staples as clamshells, trays, containers and fruit and vegetable baskets. 

Additional reasons for the high usage of PET resin and sheet are their recyclability and sustainability. Although the feedstocks for PET are petroleum based, the environmental impact of PET is very favorable in comparison to glass, aluminum and other recyclable container materials. The light weight and strength of PET allow more product to be delivered with reduced packaging weight and less fuel than most other container materials. Because it can be recycled again and again, PET finds repeated life cycles as containers for foods, beverages, carpet, clothing, industrial and many other products.

Why Converting From OPS to PET Is Becoming Necessary

In June, 2011, a highly significant decision was reached by major retailers participating in the Wal-Mart Sustainable Packaging Conference held as part of PackEx in Toronto.  Specifically, a recommendation was made to encourage the use of PET to eliminate “look-alike” plastics such as oriented polystyrene (OPS). The reason? The presence of non-PET packaging has complicated recovery programs by making reuse more difficult to achieve. That, in turn, discouraged both municipal recycling collections and recyclers from accepting any clamshell containers.

By making the switch to PET for packaging, retailers believe they will open the floodgates for more thermoformed PET collection and reuse.  The concept is to move toward materials, such as PET, that are more easily recycled. It is estimated that upwards of 5.8 billion pounds of PET can be recovered through an aggressive initiative of this type.

Many packaging companies are also in favor of following legislation in California where, on June 2, 2011, the state senate passed a bill that bans food vendors from dispensing items in polystyrene foam food containers beginning in 2014.

Another key legislative initiative at the federal level is U.S. Senate Resolution 251: Expressing Support for Improvement in the Collection, Processing and Consumption of Recyclable Materials Throughout. This resolution received unanimous approval from the U.S. Senate in November 2011. The resolution directly impacts the packaging industry by encouraging:

  • U.S. policies that promote recycling and recyclable materials, promote using recyclable materials such as feedstock to produce new basic materials and finished products and establish the equitable treatment of recycled materials
  • Design for recycling to ensure that a good can be recycled safely and economically at the end of its useful life

Benefits of Converting to PET

OCTAL’s DPET™ allows for downgauging and compares favorably in contrast to OPS. Although making a switch from OPS to PET requires a commitment, it is in fact easier than some thermoformers may believe.  One reason is that PET sheet runs on thermoforming equipment used for PVC, HIPS and OPS with only minor modifications of hardware and processing parameters.

Through proprietary software programs and process control technology, OCTAL maximizes roll-to-roll uniformity in every batch for DPET™ and achieves a caliper variation of 1 percent. That is a significant achievement given that industry standards vary around 5 percent (based on caliper control of 4-5 percent plus 8 percent flow of material). Customers can therefore reduce costs by ordering thinner gauge sheet while knowing exactly how much packaging they can manufacture from the material they buy.

The benefits of PET enable users to gain true competitive advantages in their marketplaces by meeting the sustainability standards of the world’s major retailers while reducing product cost.

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