An Amut wash line installation.
Image: Amut

The goal of recycling is laudable, but the process can be dirty and wasteful. For Amut, a manufacturer of wash lines for recycling bottles, going green means saving as much material from the waste heap as possible while acting as a good steward of the resources that process requires.

Amut’s wash lines are designed to produce recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) flake that can go back into bottles or other food-grade packaging. Anthony Georges, president of Amut North America Inc., Vaughan, Ontario, says users of the company’s equipment consistently achieve levels of fewer than 20 parts per million of contamination. “Our objective is to increase the recycling rate and purity of the clean flake stream so that it is easier to utilize in the process to manufacture new products with rPET material.”

Amut recently installed a PET washing system at a West Coast recycling company, which requested anonymity.

Amut’s washing process includes a machine for removing labels and a wash station for bottles, as well as one for flakes. But, the water that’s used in the bottle washing station actually starts at the end of the process: Fresh water rains down on the flakes and is filtered and piped upstream to wash the bottles. The process reserves clean water for the stage that requires the highest degree of cleanliness.

The fresh water used in the Flake Friction Washer is filtered using “very, very fine filtration” to ensure the highest standards of purity “as we need those flakes to be extremely clean without any residue or glue on them,” Georges says.

Designed for cleanliness, the process also reduces consumption.

“You’re reusing the chemicals, the heat and all the kinetic energy of the water from the end of the flake washing process at the beginning for cleaning the dirty whole bottle,” he says.

The first challenge in transforming a bottle into flake is dealing with labels. Georges says an increasing number of bottles have full-body shrink-sleeve labels on them before they’re recycled. Taking them off can be problematic. If not fully removed, the labels can be incompatible with cleaning and sorting technology. And, if they’re removed too aggressively, bottles can be damaged.

“You’re reusing the chemicals, the heat and all the kinetic energy of the water from the end of the flake washing process at the beginning for cleaning the dirty whole bottle.” – Anthony Georges, president, Amut North America

For Amut, the solution to this challenge is the De-Labeller. Using a dry cleaning process, this machine removes the label without damaging the bottle; it also takes off dirt from the outside of the bottle. “So, we’re not worried now that we’re going to lose a whole bunch of the caps and the bases of the bottles,” he says. “We’re slicing/peeling the label off, and we’re leaving the bottle intact.”

After the De-Labeller stage, the bottles are washed in Amut’s whole bottle washing unit.

The water in Amut’s flake and whole bottle washing machinery falls on the material from the top. “It’s just like taking a shower,” Georges says. “We don’t want the materials to sit in dirty water.”

Because water is reused throughout the process, Amut customers can produce 1 pound of clean flake with just a single pint of water.

The system is continuous. “We maintain a constant flow of the material, flow of the water and all the cleaning necessary for the flake,” Georges says.

Many of the largest PET recyclers in North America incorporate at least some of Amut’s technologies, he adds. Many companies produce material for use in food-grade applications. Some process 13,000 pounds per hour.

“Most of our clients now are working with a MRF (material recovery facility) bale, as opposed to a deposit bale, and the quality of the PET bale stream coming into these plants is extremely poor,” Georges says. “So, these mega plants require much higher output of production, and friction washers are doubled up, because of the volume and the dirtiness of the material.”

Amut’s goal is for its machines to remove all non-PET material through the washing process.

The Amut system can capture polyolefin labels and caps for recycling. With its De-Labeller, they’re captured dry, uncontaminated with washing water, and can be recycled into Adirondack chairs and wood decking.

“We’re looking at the sustainability on all elements in the stream,” Georges says. “There’s no sense in throwing a good commodity to landfill. That’s our philosophy.”

The author is a correspondent with Plastics Machinery Magazine and can be contacted at agerlat@plasticsmachinerymagazine.com.

For more information:
Amut North America Inc., 905-761-9400, www.amutgroup.com