Canadian Plastics

Electron beam sterilization of PET and HDPE bottles

It's hard to overestimate the importance of microbe-killing packaging sterilization for extending the shelf life of single serve bottled products. This is especially true for PET bottles, one of the l...

April 1, 2010   Canadian Plastics



It’s hard to overestimate the importance of microbe-killing packaging sterilization for extending the shelf life of single serve bottled products. This is especially true for PET bottles, one of the largest areas of growth in the global packaging industry.

But there’s a problem: Traditional aseptic cleaning agents such as hydrogen peroxide or peracetic acid are great at eliminating microorganisms, not so great in their effect on PET. The chemicals have the tendency to migrate into the PET when heat is applied at the beginning of the hot-fill or chemical-based sterilization processes, followed by possible leakage into the beverage itself.

Definitely a consumer turn-off.

OLD TECHNOLOGY, NEW APPLICATION

A new electron beam emitter from technology supplier Advanced Electron Beams (AEB) is poised to enter the marketplace, and the company claims that it solves this problem.

Called the e25ITB emitter, the device–which measures 47.6 cm inlength–is meant to provide a clean, dry and chemicalfree sterilization process for PET and HDPE, preventing nasty chemical migration, and also relieving a host of expenses associated with hot-fill and chemical-based sterilization.

“Electron beams have been used to achieve microbiological decontamination in the medical industry for years,” said Josh Epstein, AEB’s director of marketing. “More recently, companies have sterilized plastics bottles with electron beams by blasting them through the bottle. The e25ITB is the first device that fits inside the bottle, and the result is a more thorough decontamination.”

With no external pumps, Epstein continued, each emitter is designed for easy integration into third-party machinery on a PET or HDPE bottling line. “Bottle exteriors are sterilized using stationary emitters as the bottles pass by,” he said. “Bottle interiors are sterilized with a specially designed nozzle that fits inside the finish of most common aseptic beverage bottles. The 25 cm nozzle is designed to deliver aseptic levels of sterilization for typical bottle designs with a 33 mm to 38 mm finish, and up to 120 mm in diameter.”

PROBLEM SOLVER

In addition to solving the problem of potential chemical migration into PET and HDPE bottles, the e25ITB emitters can make life easier for bottlers in a variety of other ways, Epstein said. “For the bottlers, drawbacks to hot-fill or chemical-based aseptic packaging have always included costs and complexities such as buying the chemicals — which are expensive — and the need to implement specialized handling and training programs, as well as evacuation procedures,” he explained. “Electron beam sterilization eliminates all of these headaches.”

The company is already working with UK-based bottled milk supplier The Farmright Group on a project to sterilize small, milk-filled flexible packaging containers. Next stop: North America.

“We’re excited to be offering the emitters to the North American market,” Epstein said. “This fits into a consumer preference trend: They want single-serve offerings, but are concerned about chemicals. The e25ITB emitters will hopefully allow PET and HDPE to penetrate even further into the aseptic bottle industry.”

Advanced Electron Beams (Wilmington, Mass.);

www.aeb.com;978-658-8600


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