All About PCR: Post-Consumer Recycled Material
You could say we’re a little obsessive about our packaging. That’s because we believe that packaging shouldn’t only hold the good stuff—it should be the good stuff. Our amazing team of Packaging Engineers have helped make Seventh Generation the industry leader in the use of PCR (post-consumer recycled) materials, and we’re setting even bolder goals for the future. Using recycled materials diverts waste from ending up in the landfill, and by our use of PCR plastic and paper—we’re leading a zero-waste revolution and stepping boldly into a more sustainable future for ourselves and future generations to come.
So…what exactly does PCR (post-consumer recycled) mean?
Do you ever wonder what happens to all those milk jugs, newspapers, and cardboard boxes that you put out on recycling day? Well now that they have been used, recycled and re-purposed – they have become ‘post-consumer recycled’ material. For Seventh Generation products and packaging, paper and plastic gains a second (or third, or fourth) life – such as our recycled paper products (minimum 50% post-consumer recycled content), and our 50 fl oz laundry detergent bottle, which is made from 100% PCR plastic. So, the more you recycle those milk jugs and bottles, the more PCR material companies like ours have access to, which helps us rely less and less on virgin plastic.
To further divert waste, we also use pre-consumer recycled materials, which are materials that are recycled or utilized after the manufacturing process, but never make it to consumers. For instance, paper scraps or plastic shavings collected during the manufacturing process.
How is using recycled plastic different from new plastic?
Simply put, recycled plastic is less wasteful than new plastic. That’s because new plastic mostly comes from non-renewable fossil fuels like petroleum, which are hard on the environment. By contrast, recycled plastics require no “virgin” petroleum to be sourced and divert recycled materials from ending up in a landfill, so they alleviate much of the environmental burden.
That’s why we’re constantly looking to increase our use of PCR plastic and innovating in other ways to create less-wasteful packaging.
Check out our Ultra Concentrated Easy Dose Laundry Detergent bottle, for example. We knew there had to be a way to bring the same power and load-size of our traditional 100 fl oz laundry detergent to a smaller package. A single squirt washes an entire load of laundry. Even better, because of its more compact size, the bottle uses 60% less plastic, 50% less water, and is 75% lighter than our 100 fl oz bottle. When you choose less wasteful products and packaging, you’re contributing to a more sustainable future.
We’re excited by our progress to date, but we’re not stopping there.
We’ve set bold goals moving forward, and by 2020, we plan to make all our primary packaging sourced from 100% PCR or biobased materials. We also plan to have 100% of our products and packaging be biodegradable or recyclable. We don’t just want to be the industry leader in sustainable packaging—we want to inspire the industry itself to be more sustainable. We can only change the world by working together.
Our 2020 PCR Goals
To get there, we need you! We hope to not only inspire others to use PCR in their packaging but to inspire you, the shopper, to see the value in getting that bottle to the recycling bin. As we recycle more and improve the PCR supply chain, we increase overall access to PCR materials—for our brand and others. By using more PCR materials, and by inspiring others to do the same, we can create more demand for PCR in the marketplace. That will help make recycled materials more readily available and help divert waste from landfills and ending up in the oceans, where it’s starting to cause huge problems, and even affect human health. Microplastics in the ocean can be deleterious to wildlife and human health, as it sometimes ends up being consumed inadvertently2.
We want you to be part of the zero-waste revolution, which is why we include How2Recycle labels on all of our packaging to make recycling a breeze. We’re also advocating so everyone has wider access to recycling programs. Nationwide, recycling rates are far lower than you might think, and if containers that can be recycled end up in a landfill instead, they’re just more trash. This is why PCR and zero waste products are critical to the future of our sustainable business practices. More recycling = more recycled materials that can be used.
If you’re not sure about the recycling practices in your area, this easy-to-use recycling resource can help.
Though we’re getting close, the reason 100% PCR is still a goal, rather than current practice, is that for some parts of packaging, getting to 100% presents unique challenges that no one has ever really tackled before. Part of this is due to the quantity of PCR materials that we can access, and part of it is about performance and design in some parts of packaging, such as plastic caps and closures, as well as the thin films on our diapers and wipes packages.
But our packaging engineers are innovating as we speak, and we’re committed to our 2020 goal.
We hope you’ll agree that to create a healthier future for people and the planet, PCR materials just simply make more sense. We invite you to hold us accountable on our progress, and to join the zero-waste revolution. A less-wasteful future is not merely an idea we should hope for—it’s a choice we can make.
 http://www.oberk.com/packaging-crash-course/pcr-plastics (Link opens in new window.)
 https://www.nationalgeographic.org/education/ocean-plastic/ (Link opens in new window.)
 https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials (Link opens in new window.)