A return to returnables

The currency / economic crisis in some parts of South America has seriously affected the profits of the drink producers. Over the past years there has been a trend to change production lines to one-way packaging, mainly PET non-returnable bottles.

The raw material required for the production of the bottles is generally paid in US dollars. A large part of the remaining packaging (closures, labels, secondary packaging as well as the concentrates and franchise costs) is also invoiced in US currency. Therefore devaluation brought with it an enormous increase in production costs. The rising costs could not all be passed on to the consumer and company profits dropped considerably. Drink companies are therefore urgently seeking possibilities to optimise production costs. One possibility is to reduce the amount of raw material imported by returning to returnable plastic bottles (refillable PET) or glass bottles and to larger containers (e.g. 1 and 2.5 litre bottles).

An important Argentinian soft drink company decided to do just this in May of this year. A one-way line was converted into a returnable line for the production of 2 litre plastic (REFPET) and 1.25 litre returnable bottles. This filling line was also additionally equipped with an empty bottle inspector which can process both types of bottle.

A HEUFT InLine TI 36 was chosen on the basis of the output, size and quality requirements. In order to meet stringent quality demands the device was equipped with two base (transparent and nontransparent contamination), a finish, a thread and four sidewall inspections. The first two modules detect transparent and nontransparent faults, the third is a scuffing inspection and the fourth examines the inner wall of bottles with ACL labels for contamination. There are two residual liquid checks in addition to these modules. The faulty bottles are rejected by three rejection systems and guided onto parallel conveyors or into a bin according to the type of fault. This extensive equipment fulfils the high quality demands of the customer as well as the producer.

The ASEBI (All Surface Empty Bottle Inspector) makes the production of returnable PET and glass bottles along one filling line possible without the necessity of additional visual checks being carried out by the production staff.

In addition the HEUFT company also supplied two residual liquid checks which were installed before the sniffer (foreign matter detection for plastic bottles). They detect the fill level of the returned bottles and reject those containing too much residual liquid which could interfere with the sensitive sensors of the sniffer.

Production costs were considerably reduced by converting the filling line in this way. This showed that if the right concept is applied consistently a bottling plant can operate profitably despite difficult economic conditions.