What is PCR in Plastic Packaging?

30th June 2021

PCR (post consumer regrind) plastics are one way manufacturers are reducing plastic to landfill and using the materials to reduce the quantities of new fossil fuels used in the manufacture of new plastic products.

Recycling logo

Post-consumer resin (PCR) is an packaging option that many manufacturers are using to help towards sustainability goals and limit negative impact on the environment of plastic packaging. Recycling programs being implemented currently to reduce impact on landfill and support of recycling programs.

Recycled materials from existing plastic products are taken to create PCR and other plastics. It is estimated that 7.7 billion plastic water bottles are used in the UK, and 38 billion bottles of water are thrown away every year across the United States, this enhances the impetus for increasing the use of PCR materials in manufacture of new products.

Recycled PET

rPET stands for recycled polyethylene terephthalate.  For the most part, rPET looks and feels exactly the same as traditional plastic (PET).  rPET is created by recycling previously used plastics, including plastic bottles. Once collected, it is sorted, cleaned, and transformed into rPET.  rPET is typically more expensive than virgin PET polymer due to the lack of availability and the cost to process the waste into a safe grade of material. 

How effective is PCR in new products?

In some cases, plastics cannot be recycled into new products without first adding new raw materials because the plastics may not be strong enough to make the new container. But there are newer, more innovative ways to create new, clear-looking plastic bottles without using virgin materials.

Manufacturers are able to incorporate recycled PET and HDPE plastics into new products. Recycled plastics are available through recycling programs in the form of PCR. Plastics are cleaned and turned into pellets before being reprocessed into food-safe, FDA-approved plastic products such as bottles.

The result of including PCR in a product can result in the finished product containing specs or flecks, or the plastic being weaker than the original plastic produced. Weak plastics can be downcycled into other forms of plastic packaging, still saving the environment from harmful plastic refuse.

In many cases manufacturers will include a percentage of PCR in the plastic to produce an effective product whilst still reducing the quantity of virgin material. In this way, brands can demonstrate responsibility for their actions and a step in the right direction regards caring for the environment.

What are cost implications of PCR?

PCR plastic is made from plastic we already have, therefore it does not require the raw fossil fuels usually required in plastic manufacture and may be viewed as more environmentally friendly. By using ‘waste plastic’ to create PCR, manufacturers gain an affordable option for their packaging.

Reprocessing existing plastics can involve using less energy and fossil fuels. Overall, the environment is saved from excess pollution and wasted resources while manufacturers are still able to produce a viable, durable new plastic bottle.

PCR is also a readily available material, with plenty of opportunities to improve community recycling programs while providing a steady supply of recycled products.

Environmentally-aware consumers have been found to be prepared to pay more for products packaged in PCR packaging, making your product more valuable and potentially more profitable.

Who is Using PCR Plastics?

The Association of Plastic Recyclers has been working diligently to increase demand for PCR plastics across North America. Their initiatives encourage product manufacturers to use more PCR in their bottling and packaging supplies, and support the sustainability goals of many countries globally to reduce harmful impact to our planet.

These companies are leading the way towards increased demand for PCR and helping to ensure future use of recycled materials in several different products.

To learn more about PCR use and availability, speak with a Lifestyle packaging specialist to discuss cost-effective options for more sustainable packaging. Our experienced team is dedicated to helping you find the most effective packaging solutions for delivering your product. They can also provide you with additional information on sustainable, responsible packaging alternatives.

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