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Recycled Plastics

Insights into the safety and quality of recycled plastics – White Paper

Understanding the safety and quality of recycled plastics is an important building block for a sustainable future. Our white paper goes into detail.

Improving the quality and safety of recycled plastics – white paper

Did you know that the world only recycles 14 – 18% of the plastics we produce? While governments around the world are slowly working to increase the efforts to reduce plastic waste, we still have a long way to go. 

The good news is that more production plants, manufacturers, and retailers are exploring sustainable ways to reduce their reliance on the manufacture of virgin plastics. Instead, they are looking to replace them with recycled plastics. The only obstacle between production giants and the use of recycled plastics is its quality and safety. 

As the demand for recycled plastics grows, there is a need for transparency and reliability with regards to the safety and quality of recycled plastics. 

Challenges involved with the use of recycled plastics 

While efforts are being made globally to reduce plastic consumption by relying on recycled variations, there are considerable challenges involved in the process.

  • The greatest challenge is the supply and demand for recycled plastics. There simply is not enough recycled plastic for the requirements hoping to be filled by manufacturers
  • Future anticipated need for recycled plastics is set to increase even more
  • Lack of supply in a certain material consequently drives up the price, making virgin plastics cheaper than recycled plastics
  • Consistency in the quality and safety of recycled plastics is debatable as suppliers attempt to keep up with the supply and demand

Quality and safety considerations in the production of recycled plastic materials

The production of quality recycled plastics that are also safe for the end-user is essential. Safety and quality can be impacted in the following ways:

Polymer-related issues
Plastics used in production are comprised of one or more synthetic polymers. Each synthetic polymer type can degrade at individual rates. The process in which polymers are created needs to be rigorously controlled to prevent impurities infiltrating the finished polymer. This compromises the integrity of the polymer, which can further reduce quality of the finished plastic product. 

The presence of chemical additives or other substances of concern
Polymer mixtures can be combined with chemicals and other substances to enhance certain aspects of the final product. Recycling products with certain chemical additives can trigger the release of harmful substances into the environment. These chemicals can also be transferred to the finished product. 

Uniformity and consistency of plastic waste supply
Municipal post-consumer waste collection and sorting is not uniform, potentially resulting in unintentional mixing of different plastic waste. This can lead to cross-contamination, which compromises the quality of the resulting recycled plastics and finished products, while also posing potential safety risks to workers in recycling facilities.

How ul is working to increase trust in the quality and safety of recycled plastics

Addressing the safety and quality issues surrounding recycled plastics is essential to ensuring their ongoing use. UL is working towards standardizing the process through the development of UL standards and claims validation procedures that address these concerns.

Our comprehensive white paper delves further into this topic in great detail. It highlights the ways in which government and organizations around the world are stepping up to reduce plastic use, while shifting to the use of recycled plastics. We also highlight the key areas where UL is working to increase trust in the quality and safety of recycled plastics. 

Download the white paper here to gain insight into the tools and concepts being used to address performance and sustainability of recycled plastics.