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    Sustainable solution: filling technology for 100 percent recycled PET

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    Ice River Springs fills its products exclusively in PET bottles made of 100 percent recycled PET – and for that they rely, without exception, on technology from Krones.
    • Crystal Howe, Sustainability Manager at Ice River Springs Co. and Blue Mountain Plastics

    The owners of Ice River Springs (IRS) love Krones for their considerable experience in processing recycled PET plastic and the high efficiency of their lines. Almost all of the blow molders in their seven bottling plants belong to the Krones Contiform series. The co-packer is also increasing its use of filling technology from the system supplier headquartered in Neutraubling. Since 2013, every new line installed at Ice River Springs has been from Krones, and most are in a block configuration. One of the latest additions to the bottler’s machinery fleet is a high-speed line with two ErgoBloc L systems at its Lachute, Quebec, plant.

    As Sustainability Manager at Ice River Springs Co. and Blue Mountain Plastics, Crystal Howe has, of course, made sustainability a top priority. But she’s not alone. The entire company shares her passion. “Our philosophy is based on the three Ps: people, planet, and profit.” Howe firmly believes that coordinating the three Ps is crucial. “PET and plastics in general have been getting a lot of negative attention lately worldwide. But Ice River Springs is already ahead of the game. By completely reusing PET plastic in a closed loop, we’re being part of the solution.” 

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    The twin line handles 500-milliliter containers exclusively.

    The year 2009 was an important one for Ice River Springs as the company received a permission to use 100 percent recycled PET plastic in its water bottles. “We were the first bottler in North America to produce food-grade recycled PET and use it to manufacture 100 percent recycled content bottles. We’re still the only one to maintain a closed loop today,” Howe says with visible pride and she adds, “We’ve done it to protect the environment. What’s special about our company is that we don’t base our decisions primarily on cost but rather on sustainability.” 

    108,000 containers per hour

    Until recently, Ice River Springs had used one Krones/Kosme filling line for 4-liter containers and another for 500-milliliter bottles (which included a Contiform blow molder) at their Lachute plant, west of Montreal. Since the 500-milliliter line was no longer able to keep up with increased demand, Ice River Springs has now replaced it with a twin line featuring two ErgoBloc L systems that can process a total of 108,000 containers per hour. “We don’t have a lot of space here in Lachute. So this line’s compact layout was a perfect fit,” says Howe.

    The line isn’t Ice River Springs’ first high-speed line from Krones. Back in 2002, the company installed one at its home base in Feversham. In 2016, they replaced that line with a new one featuring an ErgoBloc L for blow molding, labeling, and filling 81,000 containers per hour. The Miami plant has also had a 108,000-bph twin line from Krones in operation since 2018. That line is identical to the one just commissioned in Lachute.

    The ErgoBloc L meets all of Ice River Springs’ expectations in terms of sustainability: “The machines process recycled PET plastic preforms with no problems,” explains Howe. “The bottles run as if they were made of virgin PET. We have actually had Krones technicians comment on how well the preform processes.”

    High-speed line reduces costs

    The aim is to run the line 24/7 and to consistently achieve 90 to 95 percent efficiency with the same number of operators a slower line would require. “Margins on bottled water are very narrow. That makes it all the more important to control cost with a high-speed line like this. Of course, when we’re looking at investing in a new line, we look at all the options. But it makes sense to use the same technologies in all of our plants,” says Howe. “Once you know and understand Krones’ machines, you won’t want anything else.” The Krones Academy supports the line ramp-up phase with specialized training to continuously improve line efficiency. Ice River Springs also has a service contract with Krones.

    The twin line handles 500-milliliter containers exclusively. Ice River Springs developed the bottle in house following a “function over aesthetic” principle. “It just has to do its job as a container for water – although we still think it looks beautiful,” says Howe. The short-neck bottles weigh only 8.5 grams each, another important environmental criterion. “But we don’t want to reduce the weight any more than that since it would make it harder to separate the caps from the bottles in the recycling process.”

    Clear and transparent blue, purple, and yellow post-consumer PET plastic can be used to produce Ice River Spring’s blue bottles. Green plastic can’t be used in this bottle. Since green PET plastic makes up about five percent of the incoming recycling stream, Jamie Gott devised an alternative use for it instead of downcycling: Following their own ideal of sustainability, the company now produces a green 100 percent recycled PET plastic bottle that it uses for its own Ice River Springs brand. The company will now begin marketing the green bottle more heavily in Canada under the name Ice River Green Bottle Co. 

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    Instead of downcycling it, Ice River Springs utilizes the green plastic from the recycling stream to produce a green 100 percent recycled PET bottle, which it uses for its own brand.
    Material properties, processability, food grade quality: you can find all kinds of interesting facts about the use of recycled PET in our free white paper. (1.65 MB, .pdf)

    High-speed twin line

    In designing this turnkey line, Krones combined two 55,000-bph block systems for the wet end to bring the total capacity up to 108,000 PET bottles per hour. Each ErgoBloc L system consists of a Contiform 3 Pro stretch blow molder, a Solomodul labeler with four Contiroll HS stations, a Modulfill VFJ filler, and a Checkmat FEM-X inspector

    The two streams converge in the dry end, where the finished PET containers are processed. The Variopac Pro FS packer produces shrink packs in four different sizes. Palletizing is being handled by a Modulpal Pro 1AD with a Robobox grouping system

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