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PPG’s PET Project

With its success proven in the Middle East and Australia, PPG Industries is hoping to lure new U.S. customers to its Bairocade gas barrier coatings for PET packaging.

By Christine Esposito

Published August 9, 2005
Related Searches: Color

Australians are drinking beer in bottles that use the technology. For years, Middle East consumers have been buying soft drinks in containers that use it too. Now, PPG is looking to win over customers in the U.S. with Bairocade gas barrier coatings.

Bairocade coatings extend the shelf life and freshness of food products packaged in polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET, best known as the packaging used for two-liter soft drink bottles, is lightweight, transparent and shatter-resistant. According to some industry estimates, PET currently accounts for nearly one third of all plastic bottles produced in the U.S.

Bairocade coatings were born from R&D work began a decade ago, according to John Lewis, marketing specialist. PPG's R&D group in Pittsburgh, PA was working on a coating for a new concept-a PET can. The PET can idea flopped, but rather than can the project, PPG focused its efforts on developing a similar coating for soft drink bottles.

Today, the Bairocade technology includes a trio of products–coatings for carbonated soft drink containers, coatings for beer containers and coatings for non-carbonated beverage and food containers such as those for juices and teas.

According to Mr. Lewis, for five years, Bairocade coatings have been successfully used in the Middle East for carbonated soft drinks. According to company estimates, to date, more than one billion bottles have been treated with Bairocade coatings.

Good News Down Under Last year, Bairocade made a breakthrough in the beer market. In Australia, a major brewery, Carlton & United, now offers Carlton Cold and Lite ICE beers in PET bottles treated with Bairocade coatings. The bottles are supplied by packaging company Amcor.

Down under, the PET bottles are selling, but beer packaged in plastic bottles might be harder for U.S. consumers to swallow. Yet, there is potential: one of the biggest beer makers in the U.S.-Miller Brewing Company-is test marketing Miller Lite, Miller Genuine Draft and Icehouse packaged in PET bottles in Los Angeles, CA and five other markets throughout the U.S.

Miller's PET bottles, however, have a multi-layer design and do not rely on a special coating such as Bairocade to maintain product integrity. According to a recent issue of Packaging Digest, Miller has expanded its test of the plastic bottles but has needed to fine-tune the recyclability of the packaging.

Bairocade offers an alternative to multi-layer PET, according to Mr. Lewis, who spoke at the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers meeting to make the industry more aware of the coatings' environmental benefits. At the June meeting, Mr. Lewis and others presented data that showed bottles with Bairocade gas barrier coatings can be recycled back into fiber, strapping, sheet and even single-layer food and beverage containers.

The coatings do not change a PET bottles "1" resin identification and can be processed through existing recycle streams. The Bairocade coatings are rinsed away during the grind and wash phases used by recyclers. Commercial recycling trials conducted by several companies, confirmed those findings, according to PPG.

"There's no need to separate coated bottles from uncoated bottles" Mr. Lewis told meeting attendees. And that is a good thing since some might have a difficult time identifying a coated PET bottle from an uncoated one. Because Bairocade coatings can be rinsed away, "recyclers can produce the NO. 1 value in recycled plastics-clear PET," Mr. Lewis added.

Bairocade coatings, which are clear, are sprayed over the outside of the unfilled bottle, and for the most part are undetectable. The coated bottle looks smoother and provides some "enhanced lubricity," Mr. Lewis said. He described the film thickness as "not difficult" to achieve-approximately "one- quarter mil."

Another benefit of Bairocade coatings is color. The coatings epoxy-amine chemistry provides a broad spectrum of colors, including amber, which suits the beer industry to a tee. The color variations do not change the bottles' recyclability, according to PPG. Additionally, the coatings comply with U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations.

New Customers and Competition Ahead? PPG may be on the verge of a U.S. debut of the technology. However, executives that spoke to Coatings World were close-mouthed about who the potential new U.S. customer would be. Mr. Lewis would only say that a major announcement would come sometime soon.

As PPG waits to announce that debut, the company is sure other coatings manufacturers are busy in the R&D lab developing products to compete with Bairocade. "We expect some competition soon," Mr. Lewis said.

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