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Demystifying recycled plastic: what does it actually mean?

About this article

Curious about what it truly means when a label says the product is made from recycled materials? Delve into the complexities of recycled plastic with us as we uncover its benefits and limitations in packaging production. Explore the reality of recycled plastics as we debunk myths together.

calender 13 Jun 2024
clock 5 min
user Jet Kolkman

At Verive, we source our range and ensure that both the beginning and end of the product’s lifecycle aligns with our strict commitments. All of our disposable food packaging is carefully crafted from either renewable or recycled materials.  

There are a whole host of questions when it comes to recyclable plastics and how to recycle plastics. But what exactly does the claim “product made from recycled plastic” mean? And why do we believe that recycled plastic can seamlessly integrate into your sustainable packaging strategy? Keep reading to find out. 

 

What you need to know about recycled plastics 

There is a lot of misinformation about recycled plastics. To clarify, we previously published an article questioning whether recycling plastic can help us to reach a sustainable future. Plastic is not only a resource-efficient material in packaging production but also contributes to energy savings when recycled. The recycling process saves the energy that would otherwise be used in the original extraction of fossil fuels or bio resources, increasing the material’s overall resource efficiency. 

 

When can you call a material ‘recycled’? 

Recycled products often contain a mix of recycled and virgin materials. The term “recycled” on a product does not necessarily mean it contains 100% recycled content. At the moment, there is no legislative minimum percentage of recycled content required to claim a product as ‘recycled’ plastic. A product can contain as little as 1% recycled content and still be marketed as ‘recycled’. Shocking, isn’t it? 

 

Limitations of recycled material usage 

Recycled materials can be a valuable part of a more sustainable packaging range, but it can impact the following factors. 

  • Product appearance: Recycling can impact material structure, making it less transparent and slightly ‘milky’. 
  • Food safety: The amount of recycled materials allowed for direct food contact is restricted due to concerns about their origin and previous use. Currently, rPET has an established system allowing it for food contact. If considering other recycled materials for food packaging, setting up a closed-loop system to ensure traceability and eliminate contact with potentially harmful substances is an option.  
  • Availability and price: Recycled materials are in high demand, and we love it. However, availability is a huge factor. Limited availability can drive up prices, affecting the cost of the final product. For this reason, a product made of recycled materials is often more expensive than a product made of virgin material. 

 

Clarifying misconceptions about plastic from the ocean  

Claims about ‘recycled ocean plastic’ or ‘ocean-bound plastic’ are often misleading. While some initiatives are commendable, others may be more of a marketing tactic. The concern with referencing the ocean is that consumers may assume the material was fished out of the ocean, although such plastic is typically of low quality and not considered food-safe.  

“Ocean-bound plastic” typically refers to plastic that could have potentially ended up in the ocean if not recycled. Again, we don’t actually know what percentage of recycled content is used in these materials. For example, Prevented Ocean Plastic is found within 50km of an ocean coastline or major waterway leading to the ocean, meaning the plastic may originate from areas that are not even close to water bodies. Proper research and accurate information are crucial for making informed decisions. 

 

What do we mean when we say something is ‘recycled’? 

At Verive, when we claim that a product is made from recycled material, our goal is to aim for the highest amount of recycled content possible. We source recycled products with at least 51% recycled content. Examples of products in which we use recycled materials include our rPET cups, lids, bottles, salad bowls. 

 

Want to know more? 

Feel free to get in touch with us today at info@verive.eu. We’d be happy to help you future-proof your food packaging. 

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Jet Kolkman

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