How you can adopt Post-Consumer Recycled to make your Packaging Industry greener

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Sustainability is the number one question for packaging manufacturers around the world. Brands from all over the world have established environmental goals. They are demanding for a sustainable product  from the packaging industry and seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. The easiest approach for them to achieve this goal is requesting from the packaging industry an ecological friendly packaging like Post-Consumer Recycled packaging.

The three main sustainable options for environmentally responsible packaging are recyclable, biodegradable and post-consumer recycled. Recyclable can be reprocessed into new products after they have been used, biodegradable packaging has an ability to break down naturally into non-toxic component substances and the post-consumer recycled (PCR) is a collected, cleaned, reprocessed and remade material that consumers have already used and discarded. A local recycling facility collects these used materials, such as aluminium, paper, plastic and cardboard, separates them by type and sells them to companies that seek to reprocess it into a new product.

The biggest impact of using PCR materials on packaging is reducing your factory’s carbon footprint. For example, on the last ADF Digital Days, Dr. Martin Hartmann, Head of Corporate Quality Management of Nussbaum, explained that it takes 6.7g of CO2 to produce 1g of primary aluminium and it takes only 0.22g of CO2 to produce 1g of 100% PCR aluminium. And any adjustment that you make on the PCR percentage, between 0% to 100%, means a significant improvement on your carbon footprint.

Why is aluminium one of the best PCR packaging?

Because aluminium is one of the elements that has an infinite recyclability without compromising the quality of the material and, therefore, is one of the most sustainable materials. The overall recycling rate for aluminium in Europe had a record of 76,1% in 2018Can manufacturers and their aluminium suppliers are pleased with the new result and believe that this rate can be further improved. Virgin plastic and recycled plastic rarely perform the exact same way and paper and paperboards usually lose strength due to shortened fibers during the recycling process.

And how does your factory become greener?

#1 Take one step at a time

According to the Design for Recycled Content Guide, not all journeys to incorporate recycled content into packaging are the same, so you need to build your own strategy. How about start taking in consideration some factors like understanding your current state of using recycled content to then set goals to use them? After establishing the goals, you can engage your supply chain partners to see what is possible and work to make recycled content part of your culture. Experimentation should be used to determine the level that you should start and then you can use a stair-stepping approach to increase your production.

#2 Use your leaders as an inspiration for others in your company

A project that you want to succeed is more likely to be successful when leadership is supportive and all the teams are aligned around this objective. You should set a strategy that involves leaders from different areas like procurement, sales and marketing, for example, and not only the shop floor.

#3 Set recycled content goals

Companies are unlikely to produce recycled content when they do not have corporate goals as a background. You should set the path to establish a recycling culture by adding it as a key result for your company.

#4 Look for other supply chain partners

If you are starting a new strategy in your company, you can try searching for new suppliers. Sometimes partners that are used to an old strategy can be reluctant to change and you can find new suppliers that are already mature to recycling to help you on your process.

#5 Use AI and Digital Tools to help you

Having an AI tool that is ready to capture data and transform it into useful information, increases the transparency across sectors inside the factory and, consequently, the agility in decision making. When we think about tackling our sustainable practices inside an organization, before we need to know where we are failing or, at least, not doing enough. If we put this perspective into a manufacturing plant, this can come up as: energy consumption, capacity of machines and scrap rates, for example.