Sustainability & Government Affairs

Why Use PCR?

BALE SPECIFICATIONS

Bales with less contamination cost more but require less sortation. Bales with more contamination cost less but require intensive sorting or additional processing. This pricing variable is captured in the waste factor portion of the bales plus pricing equation.

CERTIFICATIONS & DESIGNATIONS

PCR material with special certifications such as “Ocean Plastic,” “Ocean Bound,” “Social Plastic,” and “Fairtrade” may incur a premium.

COLOR

PCR cost increases as clarity requirements increase.

CONSISTENCY

The wider the range of acceptable PCR, the more cost effective. If a narrow range is required, it may require additional sortation or processing.

CONTAMINATION

Tolerance for contaminants will keep PCR costs down.

ECONOMY / CONSUMER CONSUMPTION

The price of PCR is impacted by availability of recycled content, which increases or decreases with consumer consumption, and is dependent on the state of the economy.

FDA LETTER OF NO OBJECTION (LNO)

Food grade PCR may require additional processing steps. A satisfactory Letter of No Objection (sometimes called an “LNO,” “NOL” or “No Objection Letter”) specifies the identity of the plastic being evaluated and whether the recycling process is physical or chemical. The FDA will determine whether they’ve imposed conditions or limitations on the use of the postconsumer recycled material.

FREIGHT

The cost of shipping feedstocks to location for processing and shipping PCR to converter must be considered in pricing.

LENGTH OF CONTRACT

Long term agreements may result in a discount.

MASS BALANCE CERTIFICATION

Leveraging material that is mass balance certified may increase price but can improve transparency and credibility of claims with the associated material.

ORGANOLEPTIC

PCR odor and taste may differ from virgin resin. Extra processing may remove/alter the smell but may be an additional cost.

ORIGIN OF MATERIAL

Plastic collected in coastal regions, waterways, or through nontraditional methods may incur a premium.

PETROLEUM COSTS

PCR cost is indirectly and positively correlated with the price of petroleum and natural gas.

REGION

Feedstock (bales) have a noticeable cost difference by region as well as factors such as regulatory compliance and the cost of energy.

STRONG DEMAND

Major users of plastic packaging have made commitments to meet PCR goals, thus increasing price and demand for PCR content. Read more here.

VOLUME

Higher volumes may result in a discount, though not in all cases as certain PCR materials might require investment.

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Key Points on Public Perceptions of PCR

McKinsey & CompanySustainability in packaging: Inside the minds of US consumers

  • 55% of U.S. survey respondents report that they are extremely or very concerned about the environmental impact of product packaging.
  • 38% of U.S. consumers say that the importance of sustainable packaging when they purchase products for various end-use areas is extremely or very important.
  • Across all end-use segments, 60-70% of consumers said they would pay more for sustainable packaging. A willingness to pay more was relatively equally distributed across end-use segments.
  • 52% of consumers said they would buy more products with sustainable packaging if those products didn’t cost more than conventionally packaged ones.
  • Approximately 35-36% of respondents would buy additional sustainably packaged products if they were more available in stores, available for more products, and better labeled (to indicated green packaging).
  • Overall, consumers want plastic film and rigid packaging to be recyclable or to include higher levels of recycled content.

The Recycling Partnership – Recycling Confidence Index

  • 52% believe that recycled items are “made into new things.” 40% believe that material is “sometimes” used, 36% believe that material is “usually” used, and 16% believe material is “always” used.

Shelton Group – Old Dogs, New Tricks

  • 65% of U.S. consumers surveyed indicated they feel very concerned or extremely concerned about plastic in the ocean compared to 58% who had similar feelings towards climate change.
  • 42% of those polled want to be seen as someone who’s buying eco-friendly products.

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Legislation & Regulation

Choose a converter that is ready and able to integrate PCR by focusing on:

  • Available capacity – potentially requires changeovers along with running at a reduced rate
  • Infrastructure to bring in material – this can drive additional cost
  • Previous experience with PCR – ensures the converter has sufficient knowledge of PCR needs
  • Technical expertise – to problem solve development issues
  • Understands the value of PCR and has a willingness to think outside of the box

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Overcoming Financial Barriers

Integrating 25% PCR into non-film applications like bottles and rigid plastics is generally considered the norm. The converter will typically do a trial run with PCR to see which, if any, processing changes are needed for the integration of PCR. During that trial, it is recommended to test different percentages: 25%, 50%, 75%, up to 100%. While you may only use 25% at the time of launch, you will know to what level you are able to integrate PCR into your package, how the different levels affect the appearance, and any processing changes that are required. This will be valuable information in the future as the PCR supply becomes more abundant.

For film, 10% is an achievable target but testing up to 40% is a worthwhile endeavor.

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Disclaimer

The U.S. Plastic Pact created this toolkit to assist U.S. Pact Activators in voluntarily purchasing postconsumer resin for their products and packaging. This toolkit does not contain any endorsements, recommendations, legal or financial advice, and should not be construed as such. The U.S. Pact and contributing authors are not liable for any business decisions that result from consulting this toolkit.

Questions about the U.S. Pact’s PCR Toolkit? Contact: takeaction@usplasticspact.org

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