Sustainability has evolved from a trend to a force driving the modern plastics industry. The sustainable packaging market is projected to reach $117 billion by the end of 2025, in part due to the increased availability of viable post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics. According to Plastics News, many companies have established goals, some of which are quite aggressive, to increase the use of PCR content by 2025.
The use of recycled material was previously limited to plastic products that did not require color. Luckily, new products made from PCR materials, like carrier resins for masterbatches from M. Holland, can be colored. Now that colored PCR material is possible, companies are better able to incorporate recycled plastics into their sustainability strategies.
The masterbatch PCR carrier resins now on the market allow brands like TRESemme, Dove and Garnier Fructis to create branded, colored plastics made with up to 100% recycled materials. These materials substantially support plastics companies working to achieve their sustainable manufacturing goals.
Until recently, coloring plastics containing PCR material was challenging due to pigments and additives in comingled post-consumer feed stocks. Coloring over the residual PCR shades was difficult, and color consistency was illusive, so most PCR was sold in grays or black. But recent recycling process innovations have produced carrier resins that more closely mimic virgin alternatives, with low opacity, improved coloring and greater consistency characteristics.
Innovations such as improved sorting processes limit residual inorganic content to create PCR products that are cleaner and easier to color. “Color is one of the first things consumers notice about a product,” said Scott Arnold, M. Holland’s Color & Compounding Market Manager. “It was important for the industry to improve recycling processes until it could meet brand demand for more sustainable, but still recognizable product packaging.” Now, brand owners are using up to 100% PCR materials to create colored packaging for brand-sensitive packaging such as deodorant and shampoo bottles. Suitable applications for colored PCR extend to food packaging, automotive, and even carpet and clothing fibers.
Thanks to the ambitious sustainability goals throughout the plastics industry, PCR resins are in high demand. These materials are created by reprocessing reclaimed materials collected from community recycling programs or closed-loop systems. The recycled products are then sorted by polymer type and often color before being shredded, washed and pelletized. The processed material can then be integrated into injection, extrusion or blow-molded processes.
This process of manufacturing PCR resins reduces overall plastic waste and increases product sustainability — a top consumer concern. Deloitte reported that 64% of consumers have limited their single-use plastic consumption in 2022 to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, up 3% from 2021. Meeting this growing consumer demand is driving industry-wide innovation and change. Beyond consumer preferences, McKinsey reported a trend of “growing regulatory action around the world, with policies specifically targeting single-use plastics, extended producer responsibility regulations, and recycled-content requirements.” These driving forces can help the plastics industry decrease the 270 million metric tons of global plastic waste produced each year.
Sustainability will remain a critical focus for the plastics industry going forward. Using more environmentally friendly materials can improve overall environmental impact and boost brand reputation with consumers.
As a leading distributor of carrier resins to compounders, M. Holland is proud to offer up to 100% PCR-content materials that can be used as carrier resins for concentrates and masterbatch products. The MfinityTM product line includes recycled resins and compounds designed to meet the needs of brand owners and OEMs working to decrease reliance on virgin plastics. Read more details about our PCR resins in our latest press release.
We are dedicated to empowering sustainable development and innovation in the plastics industry. Learn more about the products available to meet your sustainability initiatives by accessing our Sustainability line card or visiting the Color & Compounding market page for more information on sustainable coloring options.