Stina report examines barriers to increasing food-grade PCR
Stina Inc., Sonoma, Calif., Has published “2021 Assessment of the Status of Food Grade Recycled Resin in Canada and the United States ”, a report that was commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The report supports the Canadian government’s work to respond to its comment to work with the industry to incorporate at least 50 percent recycled content in plastic products, if applicable, by 2030.
Stina says her staff spoke with 16 companies (five waste pickers / recyclers, four consumer goods companies, three processors, two trade associations and two equipment manufacturers) known to produce or consume large amounts of post-consumer resin ( PCR) food grade in North America. in addition to reviewing a number of publicly available reports. The company report details the challenges of the mechanical recycling value chain and the investments required. It also discusses solutions to increase recycled resin in food packaging applications over the next five to ten years, including increasing the collection and recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE). ) and polypropylene (PP) for use in food grade applications. .
According to the study, “In Canada and the United States, the vast majority of plastic products and packaging produced each year and placed on the market are not suitable for processing into food grade PCR. Interviews and research indicate three main reasons for this: the packaging or product was initially made using non-food resin (virgin or PCR); processors add non-food additives during the production of products or packaging; or the packaged products release non-food contaminants into the packaging.
Stina’s research identified a number of barriers to the use of PCR in food contact packaging:
- limited source of food grade plastic – Flat or declining recycling rates for the three main categories of plastic used in food grade packaging mean that little source material is available for recycling into recycled food grade resin;
- Insufficient Recycled Content Verification Requirements Limit Business Benefits – Products on the market may claim to use PCR but instead contain post-industrial resin or non-compliant virgin resin. Recognized and accepted standards for verifying recycled content allow companies actually using PCR to achieve a competitive advantage and / or to be recognized for using post-consumer raw materials that reduce waste and conserve resources; and
- Insufficient economic drivers – The environmental benefits of using PCR are overshadowed by the economic drivers of a linear economy, including low cost disposal, low cost virgin resin prices, and low market liability for the production of a product that is not recyclable.
To address these issues, the report calls in part for greater transparency in the chemical composition of products to ensure the suitability of products for recycling in food grade PCR; increased use of design for recycling to improve the quality of collected materials; require verification of recycled content (eg standards and labeling) to reduce false claims and boost market efficiency; and the use of various economic incentives that enhance products and packaging with lower overall environmental impact, including rewarding companies committed to using PCR in their food packaging. According to the report, decoupling the price of PCR from virgin resins through recycled content requirements or advanced disposal fees would help level the playing field between virgin resin and PCR.
Stina’s report concludes: “There is a need to take a holistic, systems-based approach for increased recovery and reduction of the environmental impact of plastics. Throughout the process, care should also be taken not to achieve the objective and the associated environmental benefits at the expense of other unintended consequences that may result in a higher environmental cost.
“… The use of PCR as part of food safety guidelines is a critical step in the journey towards circularity and improving the environmental performance of packaging and products. ”
The full Stina report can be accessed here.