Stabilization Technology Delivers Sustainable HDPE for Blow Molding

Additive package from Baerlocher enhances the inconsistent quality of PCR content, opening up avenues in extrusion blow molding applications.

November 23, 2022

3 Min Read
HDPE bottles
Applicable for food-contact applications, the new post-consumer recycled HDPE resin is being trialed by major brands and their blow molders.Image courtesy of Baerlocher

Plastics additives supplier Baerlocher has collaborated with processor Envision Plastics machinery OEMs Bekum America and W. Müller, and polyethylene supplier ExxonMobil Chemical to develop new sustainable plastics for the packaging industry. Baerlocher’s innovative Baeropol T-Blends stabilization solutions significantly enhance the recyclability of virgin polyolefin resins and the quality of recycled high-density polyethylene (re-HDPE) resins used in extrusion blow molding (EBM) applications. The blends are equally applicable to post-industrial recycled (PIR) and post-consumer recycled (PCR) content used in polyethylene (PE) film. Baerlocher is involved in numerous commercial projects with leading members of the US Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), such as Little Rock, AR–based recycler Revolution, as well as companies in the UK and Canada (Cascades Flexible Packaging).

“Mechanical recycling utilizes only 20% of the energy of chemical recycling and much less water,” says Ed Hall, President and CEO, North America, at Baerlocher. “This means mechanical recycling is the most obvious choice right now, but high-quality PCR is rare.” This is where Baeropol T-Blends stabilization additives come in.

“Brand owners are increasing their use of PCR content in end products in response to growing consumer demand for greater sustainability and [the requirements of] new regulations,” said Andreas Holzner, Global Head of the Special Additives Business Unit at Baerlocher. “Historically, the inconsistent quality of PCR content has limited its use in extrusion blow molding applications. Working with industry leaders, Baerlocher continues to invest in cutting-edge application development that enhances the value of recycled HDPE and expands its use in extrusion blow molding.”

Customizable additives stabilize PCR content in packaging

Baeropol T-Blends are formulated with Baerlocher’s Resin Stabilization Technology (RST), customizable additive blends that act as an antacid and produce a synergistic effect with primary and secondary antioxidants to stabilize polyolefin resins. Baerlocher’s advanced RST packages create value far beyond the use of typical binary antioxidant blends. The technology enables companies to achieve superior stabilization in PCR content used in a variety of packaging applications and meets global calls for greater corporate responsibility and to better support the circular economy. 

Baerlocher’s work with leading HDPE plastics recycler Envision Plastics enabled the development of a new grade of HDPE PCR content with improved consistency and processability, and ultimately resulted in high-quality packaging applications. The new re-HDPE grade was tested at Bekum America’s facility using an F-style 10-liter bottle with a handle. Results revealed the re-HDPE 100% PCR content displayed more robust processability and enhanced final bottle specifications versus the control.

New PCR grade available for trials

“We are delighted to work with Baerlocher on additives to enhance recycled content used in a broad base of commercial applications, including those for direct food contact,” said Jean Bina, Director of Sales and Market Development at Envision Plastics. “The new PCR grade is available for trials today and is being tested by world-class consumer packaged goods companies and their blow molders.”

Further experiments at Bekum demonstrated that Baeropol T-Blend has a significant positive impact on the processability and final properties of PCR materials that have varying concentrations of virgin material.

Baerlocher also worked with W. Müller, a leading German EBM technology provider, to validate new PCR materials formulated with Baeropol T-blends. Results showed that these materials exhibit less variation in die pressure and parison length, while producing bottles with top load performance that matches those made with virgin resin.

Recycle-ready resins developed in collaboration with ExxonMobil

Additionally, Baerlocher’s upstream collaboration with polymer company ExxonMobil Chemical supports the company’s efforts to create virgin polyethylene (PE) resins that are easier to recycle. Baerlocher’s RST solution, along with ExxonMobil Chemical’s modification of the resin architecture, helped to successfully develop these novel recycle-ready resins. 

“Baerlocher’s technical expertise supported our development of a new generation of high- performance and recycle-friendly resins,” said Mark Canright, HDPE Principal Engineer, ExxonMobil Chemical. “Baerlocher provided us with a cutting-edge stabilization package that supports our effort to increase the number of recycling cycles for our resin.”

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