What You Need to Know About Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) Packaging

Both savvy shoppers and consumer packaged goods companies are placing more emphasis on sustainability, reducing waste, and using less energy. As a brand owner, your sustainability goals are more important now than ever, as consumers begin seeking out brands focused on the environment.  

When it comes to packaging, it’s no surprise that brands are looking for eco-friendly packaging. While recyclable or compostable packaging are the two most common types of sustainable packaging, there is a third choice gaining traction on the shelf – post-consumer recycled (PCR) packaging.

What are Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) Plastics? 

Post-consumer recycled content, often referred to as PCR, is material that is made from the items that consumers recycle every day, like aluminum, cardboard boxes, paper, and plastic bottles. These materials are typically collected by local recycling programs and shipped to recycling facilities to be sorted into bales, based on the material. The bales are then purchased and melted (or ground) into small pellets and molded into new items. The new PCR plastic material can then be used for a variety of finished products, including packaging.

How is PCR Packaging Different from Recyclable and Compostable Packaging?

Though PCR, recyclable, and compostable packaging are all sustainable packaging options, they each differ in the way that they are processed and what they can offer consumers. 

PCR packaging is manufactured with film that is made from recycled materials. In general, PCR packaging cannot be recycled again since it’s already made from recycled materials. This allows brands to fulfill their sustainability goals, without relying on the consumer to recycle or compost the package after use. 

A package is deemed recyclable when the materials can be processed and used again.  Once the package enters the recycling stream, it is broken down into raw materials and sold to manufacturers. One potential downside of recyclable packaging is that the benefits are dependent on the consumer actually recycling the package, and knowing where to recycle the package.

Lastly, compostable packaging is packaging that breaks down completely in a compost site and leaves no toxic residue. In order for a plastic to be called compostable, it must biodegrade, or break down into carbon dioxide, water, or biomass at the same rate as cellulose (paper).  One potential downside of compostable packaging is that not all consumers have access to industrial composting facilities. 

The Benefits of PCR Packaging 

While all eco-friendly packaging options are a step in the right direction for brands looking to be more sustainable, PCR packaging, in particular, has some benefits that are worth discussing. 

In general, PCR films are a great packaging option for brands looking for eco-friendly flexible packaging, and can be developed into stand up pouches, lay flat pouches, and rollstock. These films can be used in most industries including confection, coffee, baked goods, snacks, pharmaceuticals, herbal remedies, pet treats, and sports nutrition.

PCR packaging also matches the quality of regular flexible packaging. PCR film can offer the same level of protection, barrier performance, and strength as regular plastic film. You can rest assured knowing that PCR film will still block light, oxygen, and other gases from penetrating the package layer and getting into your product. 

Lastly, and quite possibly the most obvious benefit, is that using PCR packaging can help your company reduce its carbon footprint, lessen its impact on landfills, and meet its overall sustainability goals.

The best part? PCR packaging is a great option for brands who want to offer a sustainable solution for consumers, with no requirements or actions needed on the consumer end, unlike recyclable and compostable packaging. 

Finding a PCR Packaging Partner

As you examine your company’s sustainability goals, consider partnering with a PCR packaging manufacturing. At ePac, we offer PCR pouches, rollstock, and lay-flat pouches in varying percentages, for any of your project’s custom flexible packaging needs. Our PCR film is FDA-compliant for direct food contact and can accommodate high-impact, photo-quality graphics. It’s just one of our sustainable flexible packaging services that we deliver for our customers. Ready to get started, or want to learn more? Call us today or request a quote and see how using PCR can help you meet your sustainability goals.