“Considering the EU’s plastics strategy and the increase in recyclate quotas this prescribes, we’ve now decided to switch to using recycled PET only,” says Hermann Naumann, plant manager for Eckes-Granini in Bad Fallingbostel in Lower Saxony. “We want to be a pioneer with regard to the circular economy and set a good example for the beverage industry.”
Europe’s leading producer of fruit juice beverages has pursued an ambitious sustainability strategy for years, adds Naumann. “We aim to continue steadily reducing our carbon footprint in production and in our packaging. This means not only cutting down on the amount of material used but also closing the recycling loop.”
With help from the KHS Group (https://www.khs.com/en/) , since the middle of May the firm’s 1-L hohes C juice bottle has consisted entirely of recycled plastic (rPET). KHS’ Bottles & Shapes experts in Hamburg were responsible for optimization of the bottle. The new containers will continue to be produced on the tried-and-tested InnoPET FreshSafe block.
According to Eckes-Granini, the changeover of the 1-L hohes C bottle to rPET will save over 4,000 metric tons of new PET annually. This in turn means that the bottler will cut its carbon emissions by about 8,000 tons a year.
Finding ways of saving on resources was not the only focus of the ambitious project. The ability to do so on the KHS InnoPET FreshSafe block in operation at Eckes-Granini since 2017 also had to be investigated. “One of the concerns was whether either the preforms or machine would need modification,” explains Dr. Matthias Kruse, head of PET Technology at KHS. “So we carefully assessed the quality of the recycled PET material. This is crucial, for large variances in color, molecular length, or inhomogeneity can quickly reduce the efficiency of production.”
The fact that Eckes-Granini procures its preforms from two different suppliers presented an added challenge, Kruse adds. The geometry of the preform is essential for efficient processing, especially when a high percentage of rPET is used. Through extensive testing it was established that both makes of preform function soundly on the block system. All that was needed for optimum bottle production were minor adjustments to the heater on the stretch blow molder. No major changes to the machinery or geometrical properties of the preforms were required. “This enabled us to achieve a very high level of process efficiency while retaining the container quality, thus fully meeting our customer’s requirements,” says Kruse.
Eckes-Granini will continue to benefit from FreshSafe PET barrier protection also after converting to 100% rPET. The beverage company has relied on the environmentally-friendly system from KHS since 2006. The oxygen barrier of chemically pure glass, a wafer-thin coating on the inside of the PET bottle, not only effectively protects the juice from oxygen pickup but is also fully recyclable. The coating can be easily washed off Eckes-Granini bottles during the recycling process. The sustainable packaging alternative therefore permits pure-grade bottle-to-bottle recycling. “By combining rPET and future-proof product protection, Eckes-Granini and KHS are again demonstrating their pioneering role for the circular economy,” claims Kruse.
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