What No One Tells You About Coloring Recycled Plastics

Sustainability is no longer just a buzz word; it is THE word we are hearing during conversations surrounding plastics. Industry leaders, including Colortech, are finding new and innovative ways to include post-consumer materials to reach our customers’ sustainability goals.

Though there are many issues surrounding the topic of post-consumer recycle (PCR) material, one conversation is more vibrant than the rest - color.

Try to imagine a world with "ideal" packaging products. What does that look like to you? More or less color? Recycled or landfill-bound material? Fortunately, we live in a colorful world that is surrounded by marketing campaigns that influence consumers to associate a color to a brand or even a feeling. Though it would be easier to make transparent packaging that is easy to recycle and would contain less contamination in PCR, color is not going anywhere soon. Pigmented and dyed plastics are a challenge for most material recovery facilities (MRF) because of the lower market value and trouble finding a home for the material.

In general, there is a lack of infrastructure to sort PCR, which would ideally be separated by resin composition, weight, color, transparency, and size. This is why there are large volumes of PCR in black (all colors mingled), some in white, and fewer volumes in natural colors (and high demand for this "premium" product).

The truth about coloring PCR

I want you to think of that one friend or family member that is entirely different from the group. I imagine you embrace their individuality and appreciate their quirks and unconventional thinking. After all, they are an important part of your life and aren’t going away soon. Well, colored PCR is that irreplaceable companion. It will never conform to the cleanliness of un-colored PCR or the purity of virgin polymer, and that's ok. We must embrace the imperfections of colored PCR because it adds value to our global recycling efforts. Coloring PCR is a challenging process that creates inconsistencies from product to product, ultimately, because the color of the resin will vary in addition to the quality. It is important to have an honest conversation with our customer base to discuss price and color variations in consumer products that utilize colored PCR.

Keeping it circular

Colortech provides concentrates that contain PCR carrier systems from dependable suppliers of LDPE, LLDPE, and HDPE, which includes a highly loaded white based on post-consumer resin. If you are interested in colored concentrates with PCR carriers, Colortech can collaboratively work alongside you to design a colored product that can maximize the usage of PCR and strategically reduce visual imperfections. In addition, Colortech also offers a variety of additive masterbatches to support your reprocessing efforts with the goal of increasing the quality of the recycle stream.

Consumers are requesting that we, as an industry, create products that will allow them to make a positive, long-lasting impact on our planet. This is an exciting time to step up to the challenge and offer sustainable solutions.

 

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Rachael Matthews, Ph.D.

Technical Services Representative

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