Matching supply with demand for recycled plastic needs

Brand Owners are being pressured by legislation and taxes to decrease plastic waste by designing packaging for recycling and using as little virgin plastic as feasible. This reduction in waste is achieved by reducing the weight of the packaging, incorporating post-consumer recycled plastic, and designing product packaging for enhanced circularity.

To accomplish their 2025 goals, however,
 more than 60 of the most influential Brand Owners are anticipated to still require an additional 6 million tonnes of recycled plastic annually. Using recycled plastic in packaging can be more expensive and difficult than using virgin plastic – aspects such as regulatory requirements, processing characteristics, and material quality for different product types and components are often top of mind of Brand Owners and Packaging Converters.

Securing the future supply of quality PCR plastic

The quality aspect of this challenge is found in the long and complex qualification process Brand Owners face to identify, test, approve, and control recycled material quality. Brand Owners and Recyclers are building new knowledge of which recycled material grades can be used for each brand product without risk to product performance or safety, but it is challenging to release material at a production batch level as well as for brands to commit commercially to long-term volumes.

Many Recyclers are eager to invest in securing feedstock, new technology, and processes and expanding capacity, however, they will not do so without securing long-term demand. Most brands are not in a position to offer this security alone, either because they do not have enough volume in a particular region, or because it is too much of a financial risk without long-term assurance of quality and without flexibility regarding future volumes.

Resycure, a startup from Chemovator, the BASF venture incubator, aims to solve this challenge with a platform to improve the economics of recycling and facilitate matching plastic quality demanded by Brands Owners to long-term supply by Recyclers globally – it is not another spot market but instead a platform for securing long-term contracts.

The venture is working towards becoming the biggest marketplace for matching brand quality requirements to recycler material globally. To increase volume, Resycure bundles demand across brands for similar product needs and works with Recyclers to offer the right quality as well as more transparent and stable prices. Brand Owners can commit to forecasted resin demand with more flexibility and secure enough PCR plastic to meet their needs, at a fair price.

Improving the amount of material recycled into new packaging

Total PCR demand from brands is growing annually as more recycled content is implemented per product and as regional taxes close the cost gap between virgin and recycled material. Brand Owners, Converters, and Recyclers have achieved much progress in PCR use in cosmetics and home care, however, aligning processes, acceptable quality, commercial conditions, and risk must improve to better match possible supply to needed demand. For example, most Brand Owners’ demand for polyolefins is for natural and white recycled material, which is only a small percent of the color available, so more needs to be done to help match possibilities with other colors.

The first Brand Owners and Recyclers piloting Resycure are currently focused in the Americas and Europe, where traceability of material and certification are very important. Resycure is also working to help Recyclers secure investments in better technology to meet the high-level requirements of the cosmetic industry for rPP and rHDPE – for both better machinery, new processes (i.e. hot wash), and chemistry (i.e.) additives for odor.

Resycure’s goal is to strongly improve recycling rates globally, and to do this, our Co-founder, Michel Weinketz believes that we need to think and procure differently than today to solve the economics of recycling and make a difference in the circular economy – and building an ecosystem is a big part of it. Our co-founder Jörg von Walcke also sees the opportunity for Recyclers to harmonize their PCR material grades to match the specific packaging component and product needs.

About the author: Robert Hughes, Packaging Lead at Resycure

He is a packaging expert with over 10 years of experience developing Food & Personal Care products for large and small brands, optimizing packaging for sustainability, design, and value. Previously located in the UK, Sweden, and the Netherlands, he is currently in Germany and enjoying working with global teams.