Recycling bomb: why the classic L&P bottle is on its way out

Recycling bomb: why the classic L&P bottle is on its way out

L&P may drop brown and go light in the future. Photo/Getty

The brown L&P bottle is one of the most classic pieces of New Zealand iconography, but after 115 years New Zealanders should prepare for a big change in how the product looks on our shelves.

In the new episode of the NZ Herald’s science podcast, Science Digest, host Dr Michelle Dickinson talks to Rachel Barker, Managing Director of Plastics NZ, about recycling in New Zealand and which plastic products can and cannot cannot be recycled.

Barker said the color of plastics can have a big impact on their recyclability, with clear PET or polyethylene terephthalate plastic being in high demand, while dark-colored PETs, such as those from which L&P bottles are made, are less popular. research.

“The L&P bottle, even though technically you can go through our recycling system and it goes to some sort of end-of-life recycling, it doesn’t go back into a bottle. It goes overseas and turns into things like rugs and maybe the occasional clothing, but generally it’s a downgrade.

“And its price. If you look at the price of a bale of transparent bottles, for example, it is quite high compared to the price of dark colored plastics. »

Recently, Coca-Cola announced that Sprite’s green bottles would be scrapped and replaced with clear plastic to increase the recyclability of the product.

In a statement, Coca-Cola in New Zealand, which produces L&P, said the company is committed to driving change, and a change for L&P packaging is on the cards.

“We are proud to have signed the Ministry of the Environment’s Declaration on Plastic Packaging, which will allow us to use packaging that is 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 or earlier.

“All of our plastic bottles under one liter and all sizes of our water bottles (except caps and labels) are made from 100% recycled PET plastic.

“Locally, we are looking at switching our small number of colored PET plastic bottles, such as L&P, to clear PET to further increase the recyclability of these bottles.”

No timetable was given for this transition.

L&P is just one example of common products that New Zealanders may recycle, thinking they are doing the right thing, not realizing that the product they bought first cannot be recycled, is not properly sorted at material recovery facilities (MRF), or is not recycled in a way they would expect.

The podcast also discusses products that cannot be sorted by MRFs at all, using a black tub of Deep South ice cream as an example. The tub is made of recyclable polypropylene and has a recycling number of 5, but Barker told the podcast that black plastics like this end up in landfills due to automated systems, and recommends consumers avoid any products made of it. black plastic.

“Polypropylene itself is highly recyclable, but it cannot pass through optical sorters at this time. So it is actually deselected manually by many automated MRFs. Some of the manual MRFs may know what it really is, then it may be recycled, but through optical sorting unfortunately they are simply deselected for dumping.

Barke said AI could help in the long run, but the technology is still years away.

In a statement, Dene Brosnan, managing director of New Zealand Creameries which makes Deep South ice cream, said the company has a team “actively working on a sustainability improvement plan, which includes a” plastic”

building site of the future for all our ice cream brands.

“We are aware of the differences in the management of plastic by different local authorities across the country, and the specific problem of carbon black plastics which are not identified by certain optical recycling technologies.

“We are already starting a trial of food-safe infrared (IR) black plastic, which has a special formulation that means it can be identified by recycling machines. Depending on the result of the trial, another consideration is to change the color of the ice cream tubs to a color that can be recovered by the recycling machines.

Barker said while she understands brand identity is important to businesses, Plastics NZ is working with businesses on what they should and shouldn’t do in packaging – and the key advice is to avoid black or dark colors.

Listen to the full episode of Science Digest with Dr. Michelle Dickinson above to learn more about what you can and can’t recycle, what’s happening in MRFs, and what you can do to inspire change.

Science Digest is available to follow on iHeartRadio, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

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