Nestlé launches first product with recyclable shrink sleeve package

Image Source: Nestlé

Nestlé has introduced a recyclable shrink sleeve package for its Nesquik bottles, overcoming major recycling challenges like material compatibility and sorting issues. This innovation, developed over five years, allows the bottle, sleeve, and cap to be recycled together. The packaging also includes light-blocking technology to preserve product quality and uses eco-friendly inks and adhesives. This initiative is set to improve the recyclability of 4,500 metric tons of PET plastic annually. Nestlé plans to expand this packaging solution to Coffee mate® and Nestlé Sensations, reinforcing their commitment to a circular economy. 

 

The journey toward sustainable packaging often encounters significant challenges, particularly with materials that complicate recycling processes. A prime example has been the shrink sleeves on beverage bottles, which have presented obstacles in environmental conservation efforts. Nestlé’s recent overhaul of its Nesquik bottle packaging highlights their approach to solving these issues. 

 

3 recycling challenges of shrink sleeves on bottles 

Shrink sleeve labels, commonly used in modern beverage packaging, have introduced several significant challenges in the recycling process. Among those are: 

  • Material compatibility: The shrink sleeves were typically made from different plastics than the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) used for the bottles, leading to contamination in the recycling stream. 
  • Sorting challenges: Shrink sleeves interfered with the optical scanners in automated recycling systems, making it difficult to identify and sort the PET bottles properly, often resulting in their misclassification and landfilling. 
  • Ink and adhesive issues: Inks and adhesives on these sleeves were not designed for easy removal, complicating recycling processes and potentially degrading the quality of the recycled plastic. 

 

Nestlé’s pnath to a new packaging solution 

Addressing these issues, Nestlé initiated a five-year research and development project to redesign the Nesquik bottles. This initiative involved conversations across multiple different packaging suppliers, exploring different materials, light transmittance, and aesthetics and testing to ensure the new design met recycling standards without compromising product quality. Their goal was clear: Create packaging that was both functional and environmentally friendly. 

 

Attributes of the New Packaging 

Nestlé’s redesigned Nesquik bottles now include several innovative features: 

  • Recyclable materials: The new shrink sleeves are made from materials that are compatible with the PET of the bottles, supporting the recycling process by maintaining purity in the recycling stream. This is especially beneficial as it allows the bottle, sleeve, and cap to be recycled through the same process, eliminating the need to differentiate between the components, thus simplifying and easing the recycling process.  
  • Enhanced sortability: The redesign focuses on compatibility with sorting technology, using materials and inks that are easily detected by optical scanners, ensuring that bottles are correctly sorted for recycling. 
  • Eco-friendly inks and adhesives: The new bottles use inks and adhesives that are designed to wash off during the recycling process, preventing contamination and preserving the integrity of the recycled plastic. 
  • Furthermore, these bottles incorporate light-blocking technology that protects the product from light exposure while still being fully recyclable, a significant advancement reported in their recent press releases and covered by industry news outlets like Packaging Dive and Packaging Europe. 

 

Nestlé’s Future Plans  

According to Nestlé, the transition described will streamline the recycling process of an estimated 4,500 metric tons of PET plastic and make the return and sorting processes easier and more accurate for consumers and recycling facilities alike.  

Moreover, the new shrink sleeve will be introduced to select Coffee mate® products, with Nestlé Sensations flavored milk products following suit in early fall. Later this year, Nestlé will offer more details on their ongoing efforts to advance a circular economy for their beverage packaging. 

 

Forward-Thinking Design – Practical Difficulties 

It’s commendable that Nestlé is addressing the challenges of color removal and the development of adhesives by using compatible materials for their shrink sleeves. However, it remains to be seen if this solution will be effective in practice and not introduce unwanted substances into the recycled material stream.  


    You have questions about this article?






    Thomas Reiner

    Your contact person

    Thomas Reiner
    +49 30 / 367524-0
    info@bp-consultants.de