Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) vs. Post-Industrial Recycled (PIR)

In the ever-changing world of sustainable packaging, many people think that going green means moving away from plastics and other materials considered harmful. At times, this can be helpful but another thing that really makes a difference is how we decide the packaging material we use. There are two main terms you should know: Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) and Post-Industrial Recycled (PIR) materials. As consumer expectations shift, being informed about the types of recycled content can lead to more knowledgeable decisions when it comes to packaging. This blog will discuss the differences, advantages and uses of both PCR and PIR materials in the packaging industry. 

What is Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) Material? 

Post-Consumer Recycled, or PCR, material refers to packaging that we as end users recycle every day, like cardboard boxes, paper, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans. These materials are gathered and sorted depending on nature. Afterward, they are melted into small pellets, which can be molded or extruded again into new products. The materials made from PCR are then used for making many of the same things made from virgin materials, which also include packaging materials. This kind of material extends the lifespan of resources and subsequently cuts back the demand for virgin materials. 

Benefits of PCR Material:

Using PCR materials for packaging instead of virgin materials creates a circular economy by utilizing recycled materials. This helps in reducing waste that would otherwise go to oceans and landfills through recycling.

The number of people who care about the environmental implications of what they buy is increasing. By using PCR packages, brands can present themselves as more environmentally responsible and attract eco-conscious consumers.

PCR material usage encourages recycling programs and infrastructure development supporting sustainability culture.

What does Post-Industrial Recycled (PIR) Material mean?

Post-Industrial Recycled (PIR) material is scrap materials from the manufacturing process that are reintegrated into the production phase. These include but are not limited to paper cut-offs and leftover materials from production. PIR material is also called post-industrial recycled material because these materials never reached a consumer.

Benefits of PIR Material:

Recycling industrial waste back into production leads to reduced overall material costs and less waste.

The use of PIR materials can reduce energy consumption as they are usually recycled within the industrial setting, often needing less processing than PCR or virgin materials.

Considering that PIR materials are manufacturing leftovers, they tend to be cleaner and more homogeneous than PCR, allowing them to potentially have better quality recycled contents.

Comparing PCR and PIR Materials 

On the issue of sustainability in packaging, both PCR and PIR are beneficial in that they minimize the need for virgin resources while minimizing our overall waste. An additional benefit of PCR is that it reduces landfilling. Consumers in support of a circular economy are often more drawn to the ratings based on PCR content as it represents recycling of materials that they contributed directly by disposing. 
 
PIR materials generally contain less impurities because they come from industrial processes. This makes PIR more applicable for uses that require a higher purity. However, despite potential inconsistencies and quality issues, PCR materials are often credited with reducing consumer waste. Increasingly, governments and markets across the globe acknowledge and reward the use of PCR materials in packaging thereby pushing firms towards integrating PCR content into their products as part of sustainability goals or regulatory requirements.

Conclusion

The world of renewable packaging grows continually, and both post-consumer recycled (PCR) and post-industrial recycled (PIR) content are crucial players in this emerging field. If we take a moment to understand the advantages and usages of these materials as an industry, it will enable us to make better choices concerning our environmental impacts. 

Interested in post-consumer recycled (PCR) packaging?

With over 75 years of expertise, Packline is your go-to partner for innovative packaging solutions. We’ll help your team reach their sustainability initiatives with recycled materials.