One innovation that has been introduced in the food and beverage industry involves returnable PET containers. However, this segment is still considered niche, with not a lot of companies considering this type of packaging for their products.
In order to raise awareness and inform key stakeholders, Krones and Alpla have begun research on the viability of returnable PET containers. Specifically, they are looking into its potential in becoming a sustainable alternative to holding specialised beverages like dairy products and chilled juices.
The first phase of the research found that returnable PET containers can be used for drinks besides carbonated soft drinks and water. It can also keep Extended Shelf Life (ESL) product fresh.
Additionally, it can be reusable through a specialised container cleaning process, as PET is already less heat-resistant compared to glass. As a result, the bottle is thoroughly cleaned and sanitised, free of bacteria so it can re-enter the market. Despite several cleaning cycles, the structure of the returnable PET bottle was retained. This is in comparison to glass bottles, wherein one can see a change in the surface when cleaning using alkaline.
“Among the findings: With the right combination of parameters – especially lye concentration, temperature, additive, and mechanical impact – temperatures around 60 °C are sufficient to reliably remove even dried protein, fat, and starch contamination from the containers,” Krones developer Ines Bradshaw stated.
“Initial results confirm the observations made thus far: “Microbiologically, PET bottles that had gone through 25 cycles could not be distinguished from new ones,” Bradshaw added.
They are now preparing to go into the next phase of the project: conducting technical field tests for future applications of the returnable PET containers.
Krones is an expert in materials science and systems engineering, providing solutions needed by the food and beverage industry. Alpla, on the other hand, is one of the leading plastics manufacturers worldwide.