What is PCR Packaging?


PCR means Post-Consumer Recycled material or Post Consumer Resin, and generally refers to plastics such as PET, PP and HDPE which are widely recycled and then reprocessed into a resin that is used to make new packaging. In simple terms, it is packaging that is being given a second life.

Bottles in recycling process: sustainability - image includes natural grass in foreground

Why use PCR in your packaging?

Principally, because it helps the environment. Virgin plastics are generally processed from fossil fuels so reprocessing them has massive benefits to the environment. But that’s not the only reason to use them:

The more people that use PCR resin, the greater the demand will be. This in turn drives more recycling of used plastic packaging, helping the commercial case to recycle and means that less plastic ends up in landfill, rivers or then becomes yet more plastic in the ocean. So by using PCR, you help the “snowball effect” of recycling.

Many countries around the world are bringing in legislation to force the use of PCR and being a step ahead will help you to be compliant with regulations.

Using PCR adds a responsible element to your brand and shows your marketplace that you care.

Many consumers will be prepared to pay more for products packaged in PCR packaging, making your product more valuable and potentially more profitable.

Are there drawbacks to using PCR?

For obvious reasons, PCR may not be used in certain applications where there is any risk due to contamination or lack of consistency such as pharmaceutical or medical applications. The colour is likely to be different to virgin plastic and may contain specs or flecks. It can be more challenging to mould or process due to less consistency than virgin plastics. But once accepted and managed, all these points can be accommodated and PCR put to good use within suitable products. And you don’t have to use 100% PCR – even 10% is a good start.

What is the difference between PCR and other “green” plastics?

PCR generally refers to resin that has had a previous life in some sort of consumer goods item, probably packaging. There are many other resins in the market which are not strictly PCR but may still provide a substantial benefit to the environment compared to virgin fossil fuel based polymers. These include:

• PIR, a term used by some to differentiate between Post Consumer Resin and Post Industrial Resin. With PIR, the original item may not have actually been in the consumer chain in the market but could come from items such as crates and pallets in the distribution chain, or even from process waste in factories using these resins. It still helps the environment and is often significantly better than PCR for consistency.

• Bioplastic, and in particular Biopolymer, are terms used for plastics made from renewable biomass sources such as plants and not from fossil fuels. The term does not necessarily mean that the plastic is Biodegradable and may be misunderstood.

• Biodegradable and compostable – biodegradable plastics are designed to break down quicker than normal plastics. There is much debate currently between recyclers, producers and industry experts as to just how much benefit these materials bring to the environment, as they disrupt the normal recycling process and will not necessarily break down harmlessly in landfill unless the conditions are right. It may depend on the speed at which it degrades in which case, if it is fast enough, it may be able to be composted in garden rubbish and never actually enter the recycling stream.

In summary, the fastest and most economical way to show you care is to use a percentage of Recycled Polymer in your packaging. It can only do good.

Share article