Standardizing recycled plastics testing and certification – UL
Standardizing the safety and quality of recycled plastics can be done by creating a process that tests and certifies recycled plastics. Read more here.
How recycled plastics testing and certification is being standardized
Standardizing the safety and quality of recycled plastics can be done by implementing a rigorous testing and certification process. This is a practice that UL has put in place to ensure that trust can be placed in the recycled plastics offered by suppliers. It is called the UL Component Recognition program and it evaluates plastic compounds that use post-consumer or post-industrial content for compliance to the Standard for Polymeric Materials, Fabricated Parts, which is known as UL 746D.
Compliance in accordance with UL 746D is carried out via a thorough testing process, which can ultimately lead to recycled plastics being accepted as the same level of quality as virgin compounds. This means that recycled plastics can be assigned the same ratings as virgin resin for the same product category, and can then be substituted for virgin plastic in end-use applications. This is done in compliance with UL 746C, the Standard for Polymeric Materials, Use in Electrical Equipment Evaluations.
Customers that meet UL’s requirements will be published on UL Product iQ™, including UL Prospector. The term “recycled” can then be included in their material description.
Plastic certification process
There are three parts to the certification process for recycled plastics:
- Initial certification
- Quality assurance (QA) program
- Follow-up services
Evaluating recycled plastics can be done by following one of two paths. UL assists customers in determining which is required for their specific testing. Each path defines the number of batches that are needed to evaluate consistency in the recycled plastics stream.
Path 1: Recycled plastics with consistent identification
The first path is used in instances where traceability is compromised. Three batches are required with the following properties tested:
- Infrared Analysis (IR)
- Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA)
- Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC)
- Flammability – The results of these tests are to be consistent per criteria in UL 746D
Path 2: Recycled plastics without consistent identification
The second path is used in instances where post-consumer plastics have been considered as waste, and are recovered and reprocessed in order to be reused in further consumer products. Five batches are required with the following properties tested:
- Impact Strength
- Tensile Strength
- Heat Deflection Temperature
- Dielectric Strength
Quality Assurance Program
The quality assurance (QA) program establishes the traceability of plastic sources. This is essential when producing a high quality, safe, reliable, recycled plastic. Manufacturers of recycled plastic must have a registered quality management system that is compliant with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001 or an equivalent internationally recognized standard.
A number of tests need to occur on an ongoing basis in order to comply with the QA process. Follow-up service visits will require that evidence of these tests and the results thereto must be provided for validation.
Follow-ups ensure that records reviewed are fully compliant with the above QA process. Since the recycled material is being produced on an ongoing basis, regular manufacturing visits and sample selection with testing needs to take place.
The benefits of recycled plastics testing and certification
This testing makes it possible for recycled plastics to have the ratings assigned to them as virgin resin for the same product category, QMFZ2. When in compliance, recycled plastic can then also be substituted for virgin plastic in end-use.
UL has been testing plastics since 1941. We are proud to serve the world’s top plastics manufacturers and work with them to establish and enhance standards and compliance, both for each business and within the industry as a whole.
Read more about the detail involved in our recycled plastics testing and certification process here.