In the consumer goods space, there’s one topic that is driving corporate strategy in virtually every vertical in 2020 – sustainability. While this isn’t necessarily a new area of focus for brands, technology continues to evolve in a way that gives them more options and capacity to deliver the sustainable solutions their customers expect. Post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics are one of the best examples of this.
At times, brands have struggled to reconcile the durability and customization plastics offer with their need to source environmentally friendly materials. PCR plastics solve this either-or dilemma. Yet, over the past few years, PCR has remained limited in its color availability and use in multi-component dispensers.
We recently had a conversation with John Ferro, Silgan Dispensing’s vice president of global marketing, about PCR, the expansion of Silgan Dispensing’s PCR portfolio and the possibilities it presents to brands.
How could using PCR help brands’ overall sustainability efforts?
According to a Lifecycle Analysis study completed by Franklin Associates in 2018, polypropylene (PP) PCR requires 88% less energy to produce than virgin PP. It also utilized 46% less water and generates 71% less greenhouse gases. These types of results are the reason why so many of our key customers have targeted a minimum of 25% PCR material in their plastic packaging by 2025. By offering PCR on the broadest portfolio of proven dispensing systems in the market, we give brand owners the option to achieve their targets without sacrificing on performance.
Has the use of PCR been something consumers consider when evaluating a particular product?
Interest in sustainable solutions is growing at a very fast rate. Consumers want more products that are recyclable and come from recycled sources. At this point, however, there also is a lot of confusion about many products’ sustainability credentials. PCR can be visually indistinguishable from virgin resin, especially with a broad offering of colors. For this reason, we support brand owners providing on-pack consumer communication about the percentage of PCR in the packaging. As members of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Silgan Dispensing also supports consumer education about end of life recyclability through the How2Recycle® program.
What differentiates Silgan Dispensing’s PCR portfolio from competitors?
Our strategy has been to push the boundaries of what is possible with PCR in dispensers. While use of PCR is becoming more common for one-piece standard closures, implementing PCR in multi-component dispensers is much more technically challenging. We will not compromise on the performance of our pumps and sprayers, so we test and qualify each component with PCR to determine which pieces are candidates for using the material. We have replicated this work across our core products in multiple regions. The result is the largest global portfolio of dispensing systems available with PCR in the market today.
We offer nine core products as stock options with between 28-98% PCR as a percentage of total pump or sprayer weight. From trigger sprayers to lotion pumps to fine mist sprayers to cosmetic pumps, Silgan’s PCR solution cover an incredible wide range of end market applications as well.
What makes Silgan Dispensing’s color options so unique? Why has it traditionally been a challenge to offer PCR in a non-black color?
Raw PCR normally arrives to our facilities in shades of gray, black, or even brown. While these raw colors represent authenticity of PCR to some brand owners, most brands still want different colors to attract attention on shelf. Moving resin from a dark gray base to a white or bright yellow is not possible today; but other, darker colors are feasible. So, we spent significant time working with different PCR materials to determine the color palette that we can offer consistently. The result is our custom color offering in Europe. It contains over 80 custom colors that give brand owners significantly more choice.