FrieslandCampina switches to 100% PET bottles in Europe with recycling-enhancing “zipper” labels

04 February 2021

PET bottles

FrieslandCampina is switching to fully recycled PET (rPET) bottles for its Fristi, Chocomel, Yazoo, and Pöttyös dairy beverages next month. The Dutch multinational dairy cooperative’s previous dairy beverage bottles were made with 20 percent rPET.

“These PET bottles were already recyclable, so that’s that important first step, but with the step toward 100 percent recycled PET, it is now largely circular,” Patrick van Baal, global director of packaging development at FrieslandCampina, tells PackagingInsights.

FrieslandCampina initially committed to the PET switch for all its drinking bottles in 2016. Not only is its circularity attractive for beverage producers, but unlike glass, PET is lightweight and boasts a low carbon footprint. By reusing old PET, FrieslandCampina estimates it will prevent the production of nearly 1.9 million kg of new plastic.

FrieslandCampina’s R&D has additionally developed a “zipper” that makes it easier to separate the label from the bottle to enhance sorting and recycling. The company states it is now the first dairy company to make its bottles “virtually circular” for its brands in the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and Hungary. FrieslandCampina created a label “zipper” to enhance the accurate sorting and recycling of PET bottles.

Different from water bottles

Dairy beverage packaging has different preservation requirements than water bottles. “Our products are sensitive to light. To keep our dairy products fresh and nutrient rich for a long time, we need to protect it from light,” van Baal explains. The labels wrap around the bottle entirely to block out the light. “We could make our bottle black on the inside to block the light, but those bottles are not recyclable,” he continues. Currently, there are no one-to-one solutions to this challenge, says van Baal, so the wrapping label provides “the best alternative.” The bottle remains “perfectly recyclable” as it’s transparent, unprinted and has an easily removable sleeve.

Label removal facilitates recycling

The separation of labels from bottles is crucial. When separated through a sorting machine, the labels can prevent the machines from detecting the bottles. Also, when the bottle and the label go to the recycling factory together, the inks and the sleeve material can mix with the transparent bottle material, making the recyclate less transparent and lower quality.

To make separation easy for consumers, the new fully rPET bottles feature a zip-and-tear for undressing the bottle label. “If we become more dependent on consumer behavior to remove the sleeve, then it must be very easy,” notes van Baal. The sleeve on each of FrieslandCampina’s brands rPET bottles clearly point to the “zipper” so consumers can remove it along with the bottle, cap and sleeve for efficient sorting.

The switch to 100 percent rPET is currently more expensive than continuing with 20 percent rPET, adds van Baal. “This is also because of the low oil price the last few months. This makes the price of virgin PET considerably lower too.” Although 100% rPET bottles are more expensive, FrieslandCampina is still encouraging other companies to follow its lead.FrieslandCampina’s sustainability strides. The Netherlands-based dairy giant is advancing its efforts in recycling, renewability and reduction in the use of fossil raw materials for packaging.

By 2030, FrieslandCampina aims to reduce 40 percent CO2 equivalents in (transport to) production facilities and 33 percent at member dairy farms compared to 2015. By 2025, 100 percent of its packaging will be recyclable/reusable and more than 99 percent waste materials will be reused. The company has also set objectives through the European and the Dutch Plastic Pact and the New Plastics Global Commitment, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

While FrieslandCampina views its switch to 100 percent rPET bottles as a “crucial accomplishment,” it acknowledges its sustainable packaging journey still presents “many puzzles to solve.” “We know we can’t do this alone, [neither] as a company nor as a dairy sector,” concludes van Baal. “Therefore, we are inviting other companies throughout the packaging chain to join us on our journey to nourish a better planet and work together to achieve that circular packaging future.”

Published by on January 13, 2021


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