Looking over our catalog of returnable packaging materials, you will note that some of the products are made of virgin HDPE, PP or PE and others of recycled materials. Since many of our clients have expressed the curiosity to know the differences (beside the obvious one) we will discuss in this article what are the key benefits and downsides of virgin plastics and recycled plastics.
We Encourage a Sustainable Approach to Packaging
First of all, let us explain our position as packaging producers. At Logistic Packaging, we invest in R&D in order to make our products increasingly reliable and sustainable. We believe that plastic packaging is the way of the future, without adding to the already serious issue of pollution.
Returnable packaging materials, whether they are made of virgin or recycled plastics, are designed to have a long lifespan. Once they reach the end of their useful life, the company has already achieved a full ROI on their investment in the respective packaging materials. Moreover, almost all our plastic packaging solutions are 100% recyclable.
The Most Frequently Used Recyclable Plastics
Before we start discussing the pros and cons of virgin vs. recycled plastics, let us look at the most common types of resins used in plastic packaging. These are:
- Polyethylene Terepthalate (PET) – it is a transparent, hard and tough plastic, with high resistance to heat and solvents
- High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) – it is a strong plastic, hard to semi-flexible and has a soft waxy surface, offers excellent resistance to chemicals and moisture
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) – this is a hard, rigid type of plastic, transparent and with good resistance to chemicals and weather conditions
- Polypropylene (PP) – it is a hard, but flexible plastic with a translucent, waxy surface, resistant to chemicals and with a high melting point
- Low Density Polypropylene (LDPE) – this plastic has a good transparency and a waxy surface, that scratches easily and has a low melting point
- Polystyrene (PS) – it has a glassy surface, clear to opaque, and it is hard and brittle.
Reusable plastic materials are usually made of PP, HDPE and PPC (polypropylene copolymer, a more durable material than PP).
The Debate: Virgin or Recycled Plastics?
Let us now tell you everything you need to know in order to make an informed choice when purchasing returnable plastic materials.
Virgin Plastics: The Pros and Cons
Virgin plastics are produced under an immense heat and pressure. As a petroleum byproduct, it is essentially made of waste left after refining crude oil. The main benefit of virgin plastics is the strong molecular structure of the material first injected.
Thus, if you are looking for very high performance in terms of durability, lifespan, resistance to intense use, etc., then virgin plastics are a good choice for your company.
The downside of virgin plastics is that not enough packaging materials are properly recycled. Thus, by continuing to produce more plastic without recycling it, there is a risk of accumulating plastic waste in landfills.
Recycled Plastics: The Pros and Cons
The main benefit of recycled plastics is the fact that we reuse old plastic materials, instead of sending them to the landfill. Consumers and various environmental groups and NGOs put increasing pressure on companies to use natural resources more responsibly and reduce waste.
From this point of view, recycled plastics are the answer to both issues. However, there are some downsides to it:
- Due to the strict hygiene and safety requirements for food and pharma packaging, recycled plastics cannot be used for cleanroom pallets
- The finished product may have discolorations or specks of colors that affect the visual appeal of recycled plastic containers and boxes.
However, there are many packaging applications where these two aspects are not an issue, for instance:
- Packaging materials used in the internal logistic loop in the automotive and manufacturing industries
- Large containers used in agriculture and warehousing to distribute large amounts of goods
- Returnable packaging used between distribution hubs and retail stores for non-food products.
In conclusion, both virgin and recycled plastics are equally reliable and, with responsible use, can coexist on the packaging market for the foreseeable future.