As raw materials account for 70 to 80% of a bottle’s price, lightweighting preforms and caps along with shorter necks offers tremendous economic gains and reduces post-consumer waste.
Since the introduction of PET, bottle weights have steadily been reducing. In the past, cost was the primary driver towards lighter bottles but, more recently, environmental footprints are increasingly driving innovation.
PCO 1810 vs PCO 1881
African Closures, a division of Polyoak Packaging, believes that the adoption rate of the new PCO 1881 technology has been quite slow in South Africa.
The current standard, referred to as the 28mm plastic closure only (PCO) or, more specifically PCO 1810, is typically found on carbonated soft drink (CSD) bottles.
The introduction of PCO 1881 came about when industry leaders independently designed new lightweight versions of the 28mm closures and preforms. In 2007, these leaders congregated at the forum of the ISBT to define a voluntary standard specification for lightweight CSD closures and preforms. This new standard, PCO 1881, was finalised in 2009.
The rest of the world is far further advanced in the conversion process relative to the South African market, but the benefits have been noted locally.
‘The primary difference between the 1810 and 1881 standard is the reduction in preform weights by 1,4g (or 27%) and closure weights by 0,5g (or 17%),’ explains Alan Caldwell, national executive at African Closures.
In partnership with SACMI, a world leading supplier of compression moulding equipment, and the company responsible for 40% of the world’s moulded closure production, African Closures, and its anchor customer, developed the Gas-Lock 1881 closure system.
The brief was to develop a 1881 one-piece closure with a positive break angle to ensure tamper-evidence before gas is released from the bottle.
To ensure this, the clip ring is not continuous and features four locking teeth, while the cap has four corresponding locking flaps on the tamper band.
The locking teeth prevent the tamper band from rotating during closure opening and the tamper band connectors break with a combination of tensile and torsional force. This ensures the tamper band always breaks cleanly, quickly and easily when opened for the first time. The drop-down tamper band also ensures easy visual tamper evidence.
‘African Closures’ Gas-Lock 1881 (GL 1881) closures are compatible with PCO 1881 preforms,’ Alan notes.
One benefit of the GL 1881, Alan highlights, is the additional weight savings on the preform neck. ‘The GL 1881 neck is 0,3g lighter than other PCO 1881 necks,’ he confirms.
‘At 2,6g, we recognise that our closure is not the lightest version of the 1881 closures available, but we developed a slightly more robust solution to ensure no compromise on performance when compared to existing 1810 closures,’ Alan adds.
‘Our 1881 closure is one-piece and linerless which facilitates recycling. It’s produced using energy-efficient compression moulding that, together with the reduced product mass, has a positive effect on our environment,’ Alan enthuses.
In short, African Closures’ 1881 Gas-Lock system offers more features with less plastic.
‘Our GL 1881 closure is available in a range of 30 different colours, with three-colour printing on the closure, available to customers for promotions and brand enhancement.
One brand that’s changed to the new 1881 standard is African Closures’ customer, Twizza. Asked about the thinking behind the change, Twizza’s MD, Ken Clark, explains: ‘We knew that 1881 was coming, sooner or later, so we teamed up with African Closures to create the perfect cap. Twizza is a CSD manufacturer, and blow moulder, so it’s important for us to have a cap that not only follows the trend, but also sets itself apart from the rest of the caps on the market.’
It was essential for Twizza that the caps incorporated features such as tamper evidence, as well as the tamper-band breaking before gas is released. ‘We also wanted gas release before blow off, and that the cap could withstand drop testing to survive in African conditions,’ notes Ken.
To change to the new 1881 format, Ken explains that three lines needed to be converted for this purpose. Some only required new capping heads, but the others required a lot more modification.
‘The benefits of lightweighting, however, are that we’re saving 18% on material, above the industry standard,’ Ken highlights enthusiastically. ‘We’ve carried out exhaustive tests on shelf life and gas retention and have found no difference in product performance,’ he adds.
‘We worked closely with African Closures on both the specifications and the performance of the final product. Both parties are extremely happy with the outcome,’ Ken concludes.
African Closures, a division of Polyoak Packaging, is a specialist in the design and manufacture of a wide variety of injection-moulded plastic closures for dairy, beverage, food, chemical and industrial applications.
More than just a closure
According to Boxmore’s commercial director, David Drew, the PCO 1881 concept involves far more than just a closure. While savings are made on a shorter lightweight cap, most of the cost savings are achieved from lighter preforms and bottles.
‘Since the introduction of PET, bottle weights have been steadily reducing,’ David notes. ‘This has been enabled by a number of factors, including better bottle blowing technology, better bottle design, as well as supply chains accepting and managing lighter bottles and, in some cases, shorter product shelf life. Preform design is also a key contributor, with optimised preform designs reducing unstretched PET, reducing neck weight through innovations like PCO 1881 and new base designs,’ David continues.
David points out that in most projects seen by Boxmore most weight savings haven’t, in fact, come from the change in the bottle’s neck or base, but rather simply from the bottle walls. ‘This is partly a legacy issue. South Africa has been behind the curve in terms of bottle weights and now the change to 1881 has created an opportunity not only to catch up, but in some cases to move to some extremely light bottles. In many cases there is an opportunity to save cost, without changing to 1881,’ he adds.
David also highlights that in the case of 1881 there was a clear need for customers to reduce cost and consumption. In many cases innovation is driven by equipment suppliers (see PPM June 11, p84) where the cost/benefit analysis for each customer must be carefully considered. ‘Changing to a new standard requires significant capital investment,’ David notes.
‘Changes to preforms means new preform tooling, shorter necks require changes to blow moulders and air conveyors, while bottlers need to change bottle unscramblers, handling parts for rinsers, fillers, cappers, as well as cap-handling equipment and chucks,’ he warns.
David believes that without sufficient scale, savings on both preforms and caps can be insufficient to recover capital costs within two to three years. ‘This is often the case for smaller businesses, where customers are already using light weight bottles or existing equipment that cannot easily be adapted to use light weight bottles or blow light weight preforms,’ he stresses.
It’s clear, David believes, that in South Africa and the rest of Africa, we will continue to see a mixture of both PCO 1810 and PCO 1881 products, as well as an ongoing need for lightweight PCO 1810 solutions.
‘To put things in perspective, with a saving of only 1,25g/bottle, at current resin prices, customers can expect to save around R18 000/million bottles they purchase. Even with an equivalent saving on caps it’s hard to pay back modifications to a filling line unless you are selling a fair amount of product or step changing your bottle weight through additional lightweighting,’ David adds.
So when does PCO 1881 work? According to Boxmore, where customers have critical mass and small savings and the offset of initial capital investment can still have a positive return. ‘If the change to 1881 is then combined with additional lightweighting, the returns can be significant,’ David emphasises. ‘It’s important to remember that the ultimate value of the return is largely determined by the value of the resin saved, and although current prices are lower than earlier in the year, PET is still, from a historical point of view, close to a ten-year high,’ David adds.
Where 1881 becomes almost non-negotiable is for new projects. ‘Where customers are installing new equipment we see many choosing to start with 1881 on day one, as there is almost no extra cost on new equipment,’ David points out.
It is clearly a case of horses for courses. ‘The rise of PCO 1881 is changing the landscape in the PET industry, and Boxmore believes it must help to develop and implement solutions that deliver real value,’ David concludes. ‘As much as 1881 is a great initiative, and from an environmental and wholesale perspective would make our lives simpler, we are going to have to manage the complexity for some time to come,’ David concludes.
Boxmore is one of the largest PET converters in Southern Africa focusing on the supply of preforms and bottles to the beverage industry across South and Southern Africa.
Engineered for quality
From MCG Industries, comes the Omni-Lok Mini closure – a versatile, linerless closure that is part of a total packaging solution for carbonated and still beverages.
‘Engineered for lightweight PET bottle finishes, Omni-Lok Mini enables beverage bottlers to reduce packaging operation and material costs while delivering superior seal integrity across a wide range of temperature cycling conditions,’ explains MCG Industries’ technical manager, Gary Theron.
‘The easy-opening short-height profile features provide proven sensory characteristics that assure consumer acceptance,’ Gary adds.
MCG Industries claims that bottlers realise maximum value, and greater profits, by using Omni-Lok Mini.
Packaging costs are reduced with the lightweight, linerless 28mm closure, engineered for reduced height PET bottle finishes that offer superior application performance.
The Omni-Lok Mini features a strengthened tamper-evidence band, guaranteeing visible and tactile security against product manipulation, that consumers can easily recognise before purchase.
‘Optimum sealing performance is offered by the Omni-Lok Mini,’ notes Gary. ‘An inner plug and outside corner seal combines with a patented locator ring to ensure an ideal closure position on the neck finish for maximum sealing efficiency. The locator ring eliminates cocked caps during the application process,’ he adds.
The Omni-Lok Mini is a 28mm compression-moulded one-piece HDPE closure that’s suitable for PCO 1881 PET neck finishes. It’s suitable for non-returnable packaging and is designed for pick and place application. ‘This closure design delivers maximum CO2 retention and seal integrity under all environmental conditions,’ Gary explains.
The benefits of the Omni-Lok Mini include it being quick and easy to open with consistent removal torques, its excellent resealability and its built-in venting slots for safe venting of excess pressure. The closures have a distinctive knurling pattern and Thread Start Mark (TSM) for easy application assessment.
This easy to recycle, environmentally friendly closure is also available with a drop band or oriented vertical scoring configuration.
It’s available in a range of shell colours to attract customers and offers precise multi-colour top printing for clear communication and ergonomic knurl patterns ensure easy opening convenience.
MCG Industries (SA) has world-class expertise in beverage closure systems. By combining its expertise in closure technology and application systems the company is able to provide distinctive solutions systems for bottling businesses.
Get shorty – less is more
Nampak Closures, part of the Nampak group, offers its customers a diverse range of closures with the latest development in technology, trends and innovation.
In partnership with Bericap, Nampak Closures offers its latest innovation in carbonated and still beverage closures for the 28mm closures market – it’s shorter, lightweight HDPE closure.
Dubbed the Super Shorty, this new closure solves one of the packaging industry’s longest standing problems by offering a way to save on costs and help the environment at the same time.
Initially introduced in response to customer demands to cut raw material costs, the lighter weight closures have numerous positive ripple effects, felt throughout the supply chain.
At 2,4g, the Super Shorty is a lighter alternative to the current standard cap, which Nampak Closures claims to weigh 3,2g. An added advantage of the shorter cap is that more closures fit into a box which reduces transport costs.
Perhaps one of the Shorty’s strongest pluses is that it doesn’t need a liner to seal the bottle. This, according to Nampak, leapfrogs the need for lining closures in the manufacturing process, and eliminates it from the recycling processes where liners need to be removed before closures can be recycled.
Nampak Closures has not yet disclosed the monetary value of savings by using the Super Shorty. However, the company does claim savings are significant considering 0,8g of plastic is saved per closure – approximately 800kg/million closures.
Regarding the bottle neck, 1,31g of PET is saved on the shorter neck, equating to roughly 1 310kg of PET/million bottles.
Ultimately, because the lighter weight closures use less plastic they also use less non-renewable material. This, of course, is good for the environment, as well as the customer that can cut costs by using less PET.
If one believes the old adage of ‘less is more’, then Nampak Closures’ Super Shorty adds significant value to customers’ products and brands.
Boxmore Plastics South Africa