PET bottles have been cited as the main culprit of the plastic “garbage chaos” along with waste vinyl due to difficulties in recycling. PET bottles are recycled to make clothing, bags, and cosmetics containers. However, there are not many bottles of PET that can be recycled.
PET bottles are divided into PET bottles labeled with glue and bottles fixed only with label shrinkage, with most PET bottle labels using glue. Recycling companies separate and collect PET bottles, first remove labels, and recycle them after grinding, cleaning, dehydrating, and drying. Labels that are attached with glue with strong adhesion often stick to sticky bonds or colored pieces of labels even if they are removed using a knife or professional remover, so these PET bottles are eventually discarded as regular waste. In 2018, recycling companies finally gave up collection and refused to collect it because no matter how much PET bottles they took, they were unable to dispose of them properly and suffered losses.
In South Korea, many companies attach labels with glue so as to make it difficult to recycle them. After the “PET rebellion,” Japanese non-adhesive labels have attracted attention as it can be easily removed by hand. The Korean government then introduced and strongly encouraged the use of cut off line labels. The cut-off line method is a non-adhesive label attachment method that allows the label to be removed cleanly by tearing along the cut-off line. However, the problem is people don’t usually tear the label apart – they just throw it away. Therefore, recycling companies still have plastic bottles delivered to them labeled. Recycling companies remove labels with blades and strong winds when a collected PET bottle arrives. For labels that still do not fall, try to separate the PET bottle by carving it into a chemical tank. The heavy PET bottle sinks to the bottom and the label floats in the water, which removes the floating label. Adhesive labels are usually water-floating because their specific gravity is less than 1. The issue is, the non adhesive labels’ special gravity is greater than 1, so it sinks into the water like a PET bottle, making it difficult to separate it with this method. Accordingly, the recycling rate becomes lower and it costs more. In other words, non-adhesive labels are used to make them eco-friendly, but in reality, recycling them are more difficult.
For this reason, the Ministry of Environment of South Korea gives low recycling ratings for non-adhesive and water-diving special gravity 1 or higher labels considering the fact that although non adhesive is essentially more eco-friendly than adhesive, but that people do not actually remove them before discharging. Opinions on the pros and cons are tense. Opponents say that no matter how well it is separated from the water, using glue is not eco-friendly. They argue that it is better to use non-adhesive labels to make people take them off or use wind to separate them at the recycling site. Those in favor argue that it is best to use glue that melts in water in consideration of reality. The best way is of course to use non-adhesive labels below specific gravity 1. However, the technology for making these labels is not yet developed globally.
Non-adhesive labels with specific gravity 1 or higher and adhesive labels with less than specific gravity 1. Which label do you think should be given an excellent recycling rating?