The Association of Plastic Recyclers

Recognizing the True Value of Recycled Plastics is More Important Than Ever

The success of plastic recycling is dependent on consistent demand from brand companies and manufacturers. As brand companies continue to publicly state a wide variety of sustainability commitments that commonly include increased postconsumer resin (PCR) content and design for recyclability, it would seem the two industries could naturally work hand in hand for mutual success.

As part of that collaboration, long-term contracts between reclaimers and brands to buy recycled content for use in new products should be an integral part of their business relationship. That relationship in itself could serve as a direct reflection of those sustainability commitments. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case.

Plastic recycling is largely a spot market that relies on the price of virgin resin. As oil prices continue to plummet many companies make their purchasing decisions solely based on price, essentially removing sustainability from the equation. APR firmly believes that it is time to decouple the value of PCR from the price of that material by recognizing recycled content as the key ingredient to circularity, vital to best serving consumers and to creating a more sustainable, less wasteful world.

A recent Life Cycle Inventory Analysis, published by the APR and conducted by Franklin Associates, analyzed the energy requirements and environmental impacts of postconsumer recycled plastic resin compared to virgin plastic resin. Conclusions illustrated that the use of recycled plastic is clearly linked to reduced energy consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions, which are vital to a protecting our environment.

Let's remove the decision between PCR and virgin resin, and recognize that they are separate packaging features. PCR is an essential packaging component for brands that are on the path to a sustainable world and true circularity. The true value of that material must be recognized and more widely accepted throughout the packaging industry.

Another unfortunate repercussion of plunging oil prices? Virgin plastics being fraudulently sold as PCR. Consumer Brand Companies looking to fulfill publicly stated sustainability commitments rely on the certainty that the material they are purchasing and incorporating into their packaging is truly PCR. APR's recently announced PCR Certification Program provides that certainty.

As the first industry program to certify postconsumer resin (PCR) for use in packaging,APR's PCR Certification Program has seen much faster acceptance in the marketplace than anticipated. APR recognizes it is essential that PCR certification be reliable, consistent, and accessible by both producers and users of recycled plastic resins as part of our mission to promote this valuable material.

These are surely uncertain times across the globe, but that only makes our message more urgent. Consumer brands must double-down on their pre-pandemic commitments and trust the recycling industry and American consumers to do their parts as well. Let's all commit to recycle, buy recycled, and work together towards a more sustainable planet.

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