PCR plastics are coming to e-commerce to serve brands in their quest for sustainability

The second half of 2022 marks the start of the use of post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR – Post-Consumer Resin) in the security envelopes used to ship goods in Brazilian e-commerce.

In July, the first packages made with PCR were delivered to some of the large national markets and brands that want to present sustainability actions to customers.

It is the first time in this sector that plastic resins from the recycling ecosystem are returned to the production chain as raw material for the production of new products and reused as safety packaging.

The first brand to use PCR plastic security envelopes was Amazon. Vértice Embalagens, with a factory in the city of Colombo in the Metropolitan Region of Curitiba (RMC), delivered the first batches in July, following tests carried out in June. Subsequently, the news arrived for other brands such as Troc, for sustainable fashion, and Marisa, for women’s fashion.

“We received a request from customers to offer packaging that uses PCR aimed at the circular economy at the end of 2021. We started looking for suppliers, understood the plastic recycling chain and after several tests we managed to arrive at an envelope with 60% PCR with the same characteristics as the one made exclusively from virgin resin. We got a product with the same inviolability, resistance, adhesive adaptability, impermeability, light protection and, above all, that offers print quality for personalization”, says Adriano Greca, director of operations at Vértice.

The introduction of PCR in flexible e-commerce packaging is a long-awaited innovation in this market, which until then used PCR plastic in secondary packaging such as bags and garbage bags.

Major e-commerce brands strive to reduce their environmental impact in line with the United Nations’ (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 12 – Sustainable consumption and production – envisages a significant reduction, by 2030, of waste generation through the circular economy and its actions to prevent, reduce, recycle and reuse waste.

Making envelopes with recycled PCR material, after plastic polymers have already been used as other packaging, strengthens the fulfillment of this goal and fulfills the sustainability policies of these brands.

It is estimated that for every ton of recycled plastic, 130 kg of oil (almost a barrel) can be extracted from the environment, and about 90% of energy is saved in the process of transforming the raw material.

“In July and August, we already put 37 tons of PCR plastic on the market in our envelopes. We contract with large companies that sell online to offer a circular economy focused packaging option with the same functional attributes as pure plastic. And we were already able to present our story with PCR at the ‘Recy Plastech 2022’ seminar that took place in São Paulo at the end of August,” Adriano Greca points out.

An increase in production is expected. Fintech company FIS predicts that by 2025, the global e-commerce market will grow by 55.3%, reaching more than $8 trillion in transactions. In Brazil, sales volume is expected to practically double (95%) to reach USD 79 billion during this period.

Estimates of the plastic packaging sector, published at the Recy Plastech event, show that by 2025, more than 10 million tonnes of recycled PCR plastic will be used to produce packaging.

Data from the Brazilian Association of the Flexible Plastic Packaging Industry (Abief), collected by consulting firm Maxiquim, shows that the expansion of PCR will be large in the coming years.

In 2021, only 5% of the 2.1 million tons produced in the country used recycled plastic, or only about 105 thousand tons.

Image: Shutterstock

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