Thermoforms rPET flakes

Recycled PET is being increasingly used by thermoform manufacturers. In some cases, the rPET content in thermoform packaging is up to almost 100%, however this value is usually stops at around 70%. The future use of rPET is strongly dependent on the capability of achieving the necessary quality. In fact, as for Bottle-to-Bottle and for film applications, high quality rPET flakes are also required for thermoforming.

Since in most cases a “food grade” quality, similar to that of bottles, is required for PET thermoforms, it is of primary importance for producers of PET thermoforms wishing to integrate recycling material in their finished products, to have the possiblity to rely on highest rPET flakes quality.

PET thermoform recycling presents several complexities. For example, PVC and other plastics are often present alongside PET, making the separation a crucial step in the recycling process. During separation, the presence of differently colored thermoforms must also be taken into account. Furthermore, the presence of metals and other contaminants, difficult to separate from PET, constitute an additional challenge in the design and operation of the recycling process. While some screening materials, particularly those intended to remove PVC, are simply based on sieving, the removal of all flakes having dimensions lower than a pre-determined value may cause the loss of PET, reducing the overall efficiency of the process. All these aspects must be taken into consideration during when producing the desired high-quality rPET flakes.

Thanks to its long experience in PET recycling and to the strong co-operation with the main PET thermoform producers worldwide, SOREMA can assure its customers an absolute quality of rPET flakes obtained from its own washing systems. The ability of obtaining “food grade” PET flakes reduces the need to adopt a layer of virgin PET in the final product, significantly decreasing the consumption of precious resources. This represents an advantage from both the environmental and economic point of view.

In addition, r-PET flakes processed by SOREMA’s PET recycling lines are suitable for all the currently used downstream extrusion technologies, from the highest and more sophisticated treatments to direct extrusion. No additional pre-drying and/or pre-extrusion and filtering treatments are required for flakes obtained from SOREMA’s reprocessing lines.

PET thermoforms are used for a wide variety of purposes. The thermoforming process is distinguished in thin– and heavy-gauge, based on the thickness of the sheets realized. Many daily-use products such as cups, plates, lids, and pharmaceutical blister packs are the product of thin-gauge thermoforming, while heavy-gauge thermoforming is used for the realization of objects such as shower enclosures and plastic pallets. For many applications, strict requirements must be met by the thermoform sheets. In particular, uniform thickness, well-defined surface quality and color, and specific physical and mechanical characteristics are required.

The thermoforming market in North America is worth around 10 billion dollars.