What is PCR plastic?

What is PCR plastic?

PCR is short for post-consumer recycled. PCR products are made from recycled plastic from discarded materials from households, commercial, industrial and institutional facilities. Post-consumer waste is the world’s largest waste stream. Therefore we are constantly looking for ways to reduce the size of this stream. In order to make PCR plastics, waste is converted into raw materials. This makes it a very eco-friendly solution. In the following article we answer frequently asked questions about this material.

How is PCR plastic made?

The production of PCR plastics starts with the collection of post-consumer waste. Through specialised sorting (manual or otherwise), thorough cleaning and reheating and grinding, the PCR granule is produced. This granulate is then used to make new products.

What is the difference regarding other recycling streams?

Another recycling stream is PIR: Post Industrial Recycle of Regrind. This uses post-industrial waste. This is waste generated in the production process of products. This can be material that ended up on the factory floor or material with a production error. Many companies already recycle their own stream of post-industrial waste, making this material unavailable to the free market.

Post-consumer waste, on the other hand, originates at the end user. Examples include paper waste, green waste and plastic packaging that the consumer throws away. This is not yet recycled on a large scale because the loop is larger, which increases the uncertainty in terms of purity and uniformity of the material. As it is the largest waste stream, it is precisely here that most environmental gains can be made.

What is the advantage of PCR plastic over virgin plastic?

Reuse of plastic that has already been made is not only a cost-effective process, but also a waste reduction process. In addition, processing the used plastic requires less water, less fossil fuels and less energy. The use of PCR also has indirect benefits. All the benefits are listed below:

  • Less use of fossil resources
  • Reduction of CO2 emissions up to 85%
  • Less water consumption
  • Less energy consumption
  • Reduction of the amount of waste
  • Can be recycled after use
  • It shows consumers that brand owners are concerned about the impact of their plastic packaging on the environment
  • Helps to create a circular economy

What are the disadvantages of PCR?

Of course, the material also has disadvantages. For example, PCR plastic may not (yet) be used in the food industry, due to the strict regulations surrounding food safety. Because the course of the material is large, the uncertainty in terms of purity and uniformity of the material increases. As a result, it may also be unclear, for example, whether the material contains harmful substances.

It is also not yet possible to obtain UN approval. This is because practice is still ahead of the legislation. In order to obtain a UN approval, raw material suppliers must be able to give a certain guarantee, which is then laid down in the legislation. Applications for this have already been submitted in Brussels by major parties such as Suez. See question 4.a for more information on UN approval.

Furthermore, some colours of PCR plastic are difficult to make because the material is not completely transparent. Particularly light, transparent and pastel colours are difficult. Colours from the middle range are always possible. If the waste is very well separated manually, even transparent and light colours are possible.

pcr kunststof
Precise manual separation at our recycling plant REKS

What is a UN approval?

A packaging that has a UN approval means that the packaging has been tested and certified under the supervision of national authorities. The UN approval consists of a number of tests, including air pressure, drop and stacking tests. The approval is based on a specific packaging composition, which includes the closure, type of tape and the absorption material used. Approved packaging is given a UN mark which indicates the type of packaging, packaging group, maximum weight or air pressure, liquid or solid marking, year of production and registration number. The UN marking must always be clearly visible and in a certain size on the packaging at all times.

Which PCR plastic products do we offer?

We already produce clear shrink films with 50% PCR with a thickness of 35my, potting soil films with even 80% PCR from REKS and transparent and translucent collection bags of up to 99% PCR.

Both are made from recycled LDPE/HDPE, only with PCR it is a given that it comes from post-consumer waste. In contrast to rLDPE/rHDPE, where it may also be made from post-industrial waste, for example. Post-industrial waste is already recycled by many companies. This is not always the case for post-consumer waste.

These are just examples of the possibilities with our PCR material. For each situation and application we can, in consultation with the client, look at the opportunities that exist in terms of applicability.

Where does our PCR come from?

The waste streams that are processed into new material come from all over Europe. Current capacity is 10,000 tonnes per year with the aim of doubling this by the end of 2020. Whereas previously these waste flows were shipped in huge quantities from Europe to Asia, or were processed to lower quality (less homogeneous) regranulate within Europe, our REKS recycling plant now offers an answer to the increased export problems and the increasing need for high-quality plastic packaging with recycled content with this capacity. The plant meets all the high European requirements for, for example, water management, energy management, occupational health and safety requirements, REACH and the processing of residual waste. This assures you of a high quality film produced in a safe and responsible manner using certified PCR material.

Learn more about REKS here.

Watch the company clip of REKS below!

Curious about the possibilities of using PCR in your film?

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    Door: Theo Schilder Director of Business Development 26 October 2020