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How recycled plastic bottles are changing attitudes to colour

How recycled plastic bottles are changing attitudes to colour
12/01/2022

You may have noticed a lot more Post Consumer Recycled plastic bottles have been appearing on shop shelves in the run up to the Plastic Packaging Tax deadline this April. These bottles are more noticeable by being light grey in colour.

The Plastic Packaging Tax is hoped to encourage more brands to use recycled content and will apply to packaging manufactured in, or imported into, the UK where the plastic used in its manufacture is less than 30% recycled. The rate of the tax will be £200 per metric tonne of plastic packaging. This has increased demand for 30% recycled plastic tax-compliant packaging.

How can the colour of recycled plastic bottles vary? Recycled plastic bottles made using rHDPE plastic tend to have a grey/green colour tinge to them and rPET plastic bottles also tend to be less transparent than a virgin equivalent and may have a green tinge. The colour tinge will be more prevalent in 100% recycled plastic bottles than in 30% recycled plastic bottles due to the amount of recycled content.

Maintaining a consistent shade can be a challenge when using post-consumer recycled polymer as the colour of the resin will vary, simply because the plastic waste we put in our recycling bins varies and that is what recycled plastic polymer is made from.

Traditionally, especially in the cleaning sector, there has been a preference for plastic bottles to be as sparkling white as possible, but this attitude is changing thanks to consumer demand for brands to use recycled content in their packaging.

"At Cambrian, we see the colour of bottles using recycled material as a characteristic rather than a problem. The difference in finish demonstrates to end users that companies are committed to actively supporting sustainability.”

Lloyd Harvey, R&D and Marketing Manager for Cambrian Packaging

Examples of brands who use recycled plastic bottles Household cleaning brand Method uses Post Consumer Recycled rPET plastic in all of its hand wash, washing-up liquid and spray cleaners and the 2-HDPE bottles range from 25% PCR rHDPE plastic in their toilet cleaners to 50% PCR in the brand’s 8x laundry detergent.

British eco cleaning-chemical manufacturer, Delphis Eco uses 100% PCR packaging across its range. The company is campaigning for a Recycled Plastic Rating mark which could be applied to packaging to denote the percentage of recycled content. The brand’s packaging doesn’t try to hide the colour of its recycled plastic bottles and instead embraces this as a marketing tool.

Beauty brands and luxury skin care brands may be put off the colour of recycled plastic bottles using rPET plastic and rHDPE plastic, but if they are not buying off the shelf, pigments can be used to alter their appearance. This will push up costs. Alternatively, attractive sleeves can be used to cover the bottles, or brands can use black plastic to incorporate more recycled polymer easily.

It is worth considering how the consumer approach to recycling has changed over the years, resulting in beauty packaging that has been completely scaled back – focusing on the quality of the product itself, rather than the beauty of its packaging. Cosmetics company Lush uses recycled plastic in the majority of its plain black packaging and has a return scheme for its plastic containers. In a statement on its plans for recycling last year, Lush said:

Plastic can be a great material when used and reused responsibly; it is flexible, easy to clean, light, long-lasting and cheap. But the fact that around 90% of plastic items being created are made from virgin plastic is simply astonishing! Plastic itself is not the problem, rather our continued production of new plastics (relying on fossil fuel extraction), overuse in application and irresponsible discarding of our polymer friends that is causing catastrophic pollution to our planet.”

– Lush

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