Till recycling do us part

Let’s be honest: on how many bottles that we dutifully take back for recycling to reverse vending machines or the supermarket of our choice is the closure still on the bottle? Although the closures would also extremely valuable material for recycling, far too many of them end up in the dustbin. But now there’s a solution for this: it’s called Flip Lid.

Buy it, drink it – and that’s it? No way! From a consumer’s point of view, the lifetime of a PET bottle may seem rather short. But the bottles are made of a material with excellent recycling properties that deserve to be utilised – particularly in times of severely polluted oceans and mountains of plastic waste. Here’s the good news: more and more bottles are finding their way back into the recovery cycle – and here’s the bad news: the part with the biggest recycling potential, namely the closure, hardly ever makes it back.

Flip Lid – a lasting solution

How could this be changed? This is precisely the issue that Krones is addressing, looking for sustainable packaging designs, recycling solutions or also options for downsizing the use of plastics as such. An approach shared by the closure experts at Aptar, a manufacturer for special shapes of container closure. Together with Krones, they have developed a container-closure combination that stays together throughout a bottle’s entire lifetime.

But let the specialists explain it themselves: Augustin de Tilly from Aptar and Volker Stammel from PET Packaging Design and Development at Krones elucidate more precisely what Flip Lid involves – and what potential the closure offers:

Augustin, what exactly is Flip Lid, and why is it such a sustainable closure solution?

Augustin de Tilly: Flip Lid is a uniquely simpler, consumer-friendlier closure that remains on the bottle even while it’s being drunk from, thus symbolising an advance in terms of recycling. With Flip Lid, we aim to achieve the same revolution as the transition from tear-off tabs to stay-on taps that was launched on the market in the 1970s: a closure that after being opened remains attached to the beverage can. Because the tear-off tab had been such a small piece, it was not being collected at the recycling facilities. Why is our solution particularly sustainable? Firstly: Flip Lip is a closure made from the plastic polyethylene, a recyclable material. Secondly: the fact that the closure remains attached to the bottle renders it many times more probable that it will be forwarded to the recycling process together with the container.

 

But how does Flip Lid differ from other flat closures on the market?

Augustin de Tilly: Flip Lid is more than just a closure that protects the contents of a bottle: besides the concept of sustainability, consumers have a new drinking experience: they no longer have to unscrew the closure, all they need to do is flip it open, drink, and flip it closed again – so it offers a high degree of drinking convenience for the consumer. An ergonomically shaped finger recess simplifies opening, and a flip-open angle of 270° ensures that the closure doesn’t disturb the drinking enjoyment – you don’t really notice that it’s even there. And: since the closure remains permanently attached to the bottle, it also scores highly in terms of cleanliness and hygiene.

Aptar deliberately chose Krones as a partner to collaborate on this closure solution. Why?

Augustin de Tilly: Our choice of Krones was a strategic decision, with several reasons behind it, in order to develop a holistic solution for this new product category: firstly, Krones quite definitely possesses the requisite technical systems engineering competence and an enormous fund of experience when it comes to preform and container design, closures and filling technology. Secondly, Krones’ corporate mindset and philosophy agree with ours: despite a certain size of the company, high importance is attached to the human factor and the natural environment, and to mutually supportive collaboration. We also noticed this during the entire development process. Another plus was this: the worldwide network that Krones contributes. This enables us to identify and synergise international market trends, consumer behaviour patterns and clients’ requirements.

How far does Krones as a manufacturer of machinery for processing plastics, also bear a certain amount of responsibility for addressing the issue of sustainable packaging?

Volker Stammel: Of course it does. Not only from our own sense of responsibility; as a complete-system vendor, Krones has to be equipped to meet and master an enormously disparate array of customer requirements and offer an appropriate solution. Within the framework of PET Packaging Development and Consulting, our remit covers holistic approaches of this kind. In future, we shall be faced with progressively more statutory stipulations for avoiding plastic waste, which our clients will have to comply with as beverage producers. So, we at Krones set ourselves the goal of being well-equipped to meet and master future changes on the market. In the shape of Flip Lid, we have in conjunction with Aptar developed a packaging system in which, over and above the lasting advantages also incorporates all technical components required for an efficient line solution.

What does Krones offer its clients as a technical solution, and what added value does the client have?

Volker Stammel: The newly developed product offers the client firstly material savings, and thus not only reduced costs, but also an ecological advantage. The real trick, though, lies in the bottle neck: a lightweight neck finish (26/22) is equally suitable for still and carbonated beverages, and is thus an authentic allrounder. Because thanks to different closure and preform variants, a changeover time is no longer needed when shifting from still to carbonated beverages (and vice versa) – and that in its turn could lead to higher line efficiency.

And quite specifically to finish up with: when could I as a consumer expect to find Flip Lid in the supermarkets?

Volker Stammel: The whole thing is still a pilot project at present, and we’re currently in the technical validation phase. When precisely we can go to market with it is not clear yet, but we could certainly imagine commercial applications up and running in 2020.