Plastic Recycling Becomes a Brand Differentiator
Post-consumer recycled (PCR) containers are starting to see some activity as a brand diffentiator. Adding a portion of PCR to the resin of plastic containers is gaining momentum for naturally oriented companies and those that want to appeal to the environmentally conscious consumer.
While many work on various ways to make resins from bio mass (plant material), others are working on various ways to add recycled plastic into virgin plastic. Recently the iconic company Burt’s Bees released a new squeeze bottle with up to 62% recycled plastic. Burt’s Bees co-founded in 1984 by Bert Shavitz, the self-styled minimalist and hermit (“a good day is when no one shows up”), built a company based more on principle than a lust for success. Living with few material goods, and loving what nature provided naturally became ingrained in the company and product line.
But international distribution and many dozens of products followed his famous Bee’s Lip Balm, and not all packaging could stay in the 19th century. One way to mitigate that is to find natural ways to solve problems. Adding recycled material to packaging is an obvious one.
For Bert’s customers, this is a no-brainer, but many other companies are realizing that doing good can also mean doing well. Studies are showing that some customers do in fact react to recycled materials and will pay a small premium for them.
Still others are realizing that their brand is partially determined by the packaging they use (or do not use). Packaging and plastic containers can promote sales and brand. In a MeadWestvaco study 62 percent of the respondents actually purchased a new product based on the packaging. Using PCR as part of the labeling is part of the image.
Vice president of sustainability of the Plastics Industry Association, Kim Holmes, said in a Plastics Technology article, “Brand owners are taking a real leadership position in terms of driving demand and ensuring their products are compatible to be recycled with the existing systems.”
“Ocean-bound plastics” is a category of used plastic litter recycled into usable resin. This method focuses on the vast single use containers that are often thrown away instead of placed in the recycle stream, kespecially in developing countries. Microdyne Plastics uses a resource for ocean plastic likely bound to become ocean waste. The method captures plastic trash for making PCR that can be mixed with or replace HDPE virgin plastics. These kinds of new methods and proceedures produce plastic resin while capturing more plastic trash.
Other studies are confirming the effect of sustainable packaging on brand. EcoFocus Worldwide, and Evergreen Packaging did a survey that examined wellness and sustainability trends in the food and beverage industry. The results line up with other trends especially the growing influence of millennial spending, over $200 billion in 2017.
Artificial ingredients are avoided by 69% of millennials, and they also consider packaging. They differentiate between products that improve the environment and those that don’t. 73% say they try to buy products in packaging that is recyclable. 59% say they look for beverages in packaging that is made with renewable materials. This is why using PCR can be so important to the plastics container industry. The study is summarized, “consumers prioritize making healthy and environmentally responsible purchases and are clearly linked together”.
Sustainability has caused an increase in recycled materials over the last ten years. The trend naturally includes recycling, and reuse, but also minimizing the material used in the packaging. PET bottles walls have been thinned saving material, while card stock is being reduced from boxes. Yet these solutions can degrade the functionality. Have you ever opened a PET bottle and squished the water in your lap because you were holding it tightly to remove the cap?
Real solutions to packaging include using recyclable (PCR) and naturally degradable materials that will have little impact on the environment while mirroring the value of the brand. Reducing the packaging to flimsy will not work in the long run. Burts Bees has solved its problem without degrading the packaging that is part of the brand’s allure.
Microdyne is committed to assisting customers in the new resin formulations for containers. We are already using several resins that can replace traditional plastic resin with promising results as well as mixing PCR resin with virgin resin. See our Earth Friendly Plastic Polymers and Resins Page for an overview.
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