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Nesquik’s New Shrink-Sleeve Labels Make Packaging 100% Recyclable

Five years of R&D results in a new shrink-sleeve label for Nestlé’s Nesquik RTD dairy beverage packaging that is 100% recyclable and provides the required light-blocking functionality.

All seven Nesquik flavors will be available with the new recyclable shrink-sleeve label by June of this year.
All seven Nesquik flavors will be available with the new recyclable shrink-sleeve label by June of this year.

In recent months, Nestlé has transitioned the full-body shrink-sleeve label for its Nesquik ready-to-drink portfolio of flavored dairy beverages to a recyclable, yet still light-blocking, material. According to the company, the label is the first of its kind on-shelf and was engineered to address the recycling challenges associated with heavier-weight shrink-sleeve material, while providing product protection comparable to the label it replaces.

Traditionally, during the recycling process, shrink-sleeve labels sink to the bottom along with PET bottles in a float sink tank. This results in contamination of the rPET. Additionally, PETG label residue can cause clumping.

“With the former label, consumers could recycle Nesquik ready-to-drink bottles only after removing and disposing of the label sleeve, as communicated by the How2Recycle label included on the bottle sleeve,” explains Chastity McLeod, VP of Sustainability, NestlĂ© North America. “We’re transitioning to the recyclable label sleeve to help make it easier for the consumer to recycle the bottle and help increase the bottle’s ability to be sorted accurately at recycling facilities. With the new shrink sleeve, the entire Nesquik ready-to-drink bottle will be recyclable, meaning consumers can put the entire package—including cap, bottle, and shrink sleeve—into their recycling bin without needing to remove the sleeve.” 

Before the transition, NestlĂ© was using a white PETG material with light-blocking properties—an essential feature as Nesquik’s milk-based beverage has attributes such as taste, color, and vitamin level that are susceptible to light. Finding a replacement that was both recyclable and provided the same light-blocking functionality involved multiple tests across all seven Nesquik flavors. 


   Read this related article on how brands and MRFs can work together to develop recyclable packaging: “PRS23: Collaboration is Key to Driving Recycling Success”


“This included light-transmittance tests across more than 20 candidate materials, product shelf-life studies, and the completion of plastics recyclability tests to ensure the new shrink sleeve and inks would remain compatible with the U.S. recycling system,” the company explains. Shares McLeod, Nestlé’s testing was in accordance with the Association of Plastic Recyclers’ (APR) industry standards for material recycling facilities (MRFs) in the U.S. and completed by an independent third-party laboratory.

Following this extensive R&D process, Nestlé selected crystallized PET, along with new washable inks. “Whether or not the sleeve comes off during the recycling process depends on what type of separation process a specific facility leverages,” McLeod explains. “If the sleeve remains on the bottle, then the inks are washed off so the sleeve material can be reincorporated with the plastic supply stream. The quality of the recycled plastic is not impacted, as the sleeve was designed so that it can be reincorporated with the plastic supply stream.”

The project was not complete though until Nestlé conducted factory trials to ensure the new sleeve would run effectively on its factory production lines. This included making adjustments to optimize both the shrink sleeve and existing equipment throughout the process. The team also trialed multiple different iterations of shrink-sleeve artwork and ink combinations to make sure the new sleeve maintained Nesquik’s authentic look and feel.

With the transition of all seven Nesquik varieties in June, NestlĂ© estimates that 4,500 metric tons of PET plastic will now be easier for consumers to recycle each year. Packaging for some Coffee mate and natural bliss creamer products will also use the new label, and NestlĂ© Sensations flavored milk products are expected to convert to the new sleeve in early fall. PW 


   Read about another sustainable packaging innovation from NestlĂ© in this related article, “NestlĂ© Pilots Paper-Based, Home-Compostable Coffee Capsule”



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