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Five Roadblocks to Increased Use of Recycled Content in Plastic Packaging

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), a project of GreenBlue, has released a set of guidelines on the use of post consumer recycled (PCR) content in 27 packaging applications for a number of different plastics. The group evaluated each application use of PCR by packaging performance requirements, regulatory compliance requirements, technical/operational factors, aesthetic considerations, material availability and cost.

The report, “Guidelines for Increasing Post Consumer Recycled Content in Plastic Packaging,” addresses common issues and strategies for increasing recycled content in beverage, dairy, electronic, household care and laundry, pharmaceutical, personal care product, and snack plastic packaging. It also includes technical information and solutions for overcoming many of the challenges cited in the report.

The report finds that the biggest opportunities to use PCR content are PET in electronic equipment blister packs as well as carbonated beverages, water and juice bottles. PET and HDPE are also finding homes in household cleaner bottles,  laundry detergent jugs, and laundry additive containers as well as in shampoo, conditioner and soap bottles.

As an example, several food and beverage companies including Naya, Naked Juice, Coca Cola, Danone, and Pepsico have boosted the use of recycled plastics over the past year.

These packaging formats already contain the highest average percentages of recycled content in the market place ranging from 35 to 50 percent for electronic equipment blister packs, and 25 to 35 percent for household cleaning/laundry and shampoo, conditioner and soap, according to the report. Beverage containers use about 10 percent PCR.

According to the report, there are five primary challenges to increased recycled content use. These include a lack of material collection and sorting infrastructure, a lack of or limited material markets, international market competition for existing recovered materials, direct food and drug contact requirements compliance, critical performance requirements such as material strength and environmental (e.g., ultraviolet light (UV), moisture) barriers.

Other considerations include material quality, cost variability, aesthetics and required process modifications that may impact inventory management, material feed and process cycle time.

Researchers provide several best practice tips on how to use recycled content in the design and manufacture of plastic packaging applications. A few tips cited in the report include choosing a reputable plastics recycler that can provide detailed technical data and inspection sheets, and designing the recycled content package so it can be recycled again.

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One thought on “Five Roadblocks to Increased Use of Recycled Content in Plastic Packaging

  1. Use of recycled content in products is essential to closing the loop and maximising resource efficiency. Good work sustainable Packaging Coaltion. Very important! In Australia, we are campaigning for container deposits which will address several of the barriers mentioned: especially the lack of material collection and sorting infrastructure.

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