So far, so good for PCR certification

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October 27, 2020

A developing marketplace needs accountability for orderly growth. That is why the initial results of the postconsumer resin (PCR) certification program developed by the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) earlier this year are a very hopeful sign. The program assures buyers of PCR used for packaging that they are getting what they are paying for, which is key for consumer products manufacturers that advertise recycled content in their packaging.

Seven APR member companies are selling certified PCR as of late September: Avangard Innovative LP, EFS-plastics Inc., Envision Plastics, Merlin Plastics, PreZero US, Revolution and Trigon Plastics. These early adopters probably have gained a sales advantage over competitors that have not joined. This certification could someday become the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for PCR.

Here is how the program works. First, APR endorses third-party companies to conduct certifications. Four companies have been endorsed as of late September: AM Testing & Services Inc., GreenCircle Certified LLC, SCS Global Services and UL Verification Services Inc. The APR endorsement means these companies will now certify PCR using the same criteria.

A company selling PCR pellets, flake or regrind hires one of these companies to audit its operation. The certification company conducts a mass balance analysis of material flowing into and out of the recycling facility to ensure enough PCR raw material is used in production to consistently meet the recycled-content claims. Certification lasts for one year.

The audit also verifies the PCR does not contain postindustrial scrap. APR members recycle both materials, but only PCR is certified by this program.

APR member companies that earn certification are promoted by APR. Nonmember companies can participate, but they are not promoted by APR.

This is an excellent program, and we hope more companies get on board. APR estimates starting costs for an audit are about $5,000, which is a reasonable price to pay if it generates even one new sale every year.

Brand owners put their reputations on the line when they claim their products or packages contain a certain percentage of recycled resin. Re-establishing a good reputation for a company caught misrepresenting the recycled content in its packaging would be costly and time-consuming, if not impossible. It would certainly come back to the packaging manufacturer and company that sold the PCR.

APR does not collect fees from the certification program, and it does not currently certify PCR content in end products. APR has indicated the program may be expanded later.

Everyone in the recycled resin supply chain should keep a close watch on this new program and consider joining. What is it worth for your customers to have complete trust in your products? I am not sure you can put a price on that.