IFCO Looks at 3 New RPC Label and Adhesive Options Aimed at Improving Reusable Container Efficiencies
Labels, according to Paul Pederson, Director of Food Safety & Regulatory Compliance at IFCO Systems, present the largest single problem for RPC providers. He commented in a June 2016 article by IFCO. (To read that article, visit http://blog.ifco.com/.) When incorrect labels are used on RPCs, the rubber adhesive can permanently bond with the plastic, making the RPC non-reusable. Additionally, debris from paper labels can become separated in the wash, and gum up equipment.
Even the current generation of approved labels results in the need for considerable scraping during the quality assurance inspection after washing. With these challenges in mind, IFCO has been exploring three new approaches with an eye to improving label efficiency, and in turn, the overall success of RPCs in the perishable supply chain.
Direct printing onto the RPC without a label
The best solution to the label problem may be the opportunity to create the necessary information without using them. Several tree fruit growers in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Canada already employ inkjet printing solutions to print directly onto corrugated boxes. IFCO’s research hinged on the notion that it should be equally possible to use the inkjet printing process to print directly onto RPCs. The company searched for a solution that would work well in the supply chain and then wash completely away at the wash plant.
IFCO discovered a food grade ink that was being applied directly to candy. And fortunately, the ink was found to wash off 100 percent successfully at the IFCO service center. After thorough internal testing, IFCO began offering free samples of the new ink to growers to start printing directly onto IFCO’s Wood Grain RPCs.
“This is a big deal,” Pederson stated in the IFCO article. “It is much cheaper than labeling, it is automated, so there is no labor involved, and it is food grade, so the food safety element is addressed as well.”
For fruit growers changing over from paper to plastic containers, they simply need to switch from their standard ink to the washable ink.
Dissolvable label washes off completely
The second focus for IFCO research has been in identifying a label which would be completely dissolvable in the wash process, and thereby eliminate the need for laborious scraping, and the costly loss of RPCs because of permanent label melding. .A successful product was identified and has now been in use since 2015. A year later, Pederson reported that usage is starting to significantly increase, with several million of the dissolvable labels being used.
The dissolvable label cannot be used for certain products that come in contact with water, such as those requiring hydro cooling. The new label is showing good uptake for items such as the greenhouse sector, carrots, tree fruits, meat, and eggs.
The cost of the dissolvable label is still a little high, Pederson noted, at about 1.5 cents each compared to around a penny for an average, but he anticipates further price reduction as demand grows.
Pulpable adhesive labels offer up to a 10X increase in wash removal for synthetic labels
Another area of IFCO research has been in finding adhesives for synthetic RPC label liners that release more efficiently during the wash. Pulpable adhesive was identified as a successful product in this regard. When the FDA approved material is used as an alternative to conventional bonding agents, the removal rate is improved in a range of five to 50 percent.
At this time, however, the pulpable adhesive label sells at about 2 cents each, so Pederson isn’t optimistic about a lot of acceptance until the price goes down.
This report is based on the IFCO article, “Three New Label and Adhesive Options for IFCO RPCs.”