May 5, 2020

We are increasingly demanding that our favourite products be wrapped in packaging which contributes to a better environment. This can mean replacing conventional plastic with renewable and recycled materials. In response, producers are repurposing petrochemical facilities to accept a wider range of raw materials including those made from waste plastic and biomass.  Packaging manufacturers and consumer brands are joining in and the whole plastic packaging supply chain is coming together to ensure this new material is put to good use.

ISCC PLUS certification for the complete supply chain is increasing, to provide reassurance about the sustainable content of the packaging. The industry is rising to the challenge with numerous facilities already or soon to be certified. “Producers, converters and brand owners are endorsing ISCC PLUS certification for their new circular packaging” says Prof. Gernot Klepper, Chairman of the ISCC e.V. Board.

Unilever, REN Clean Skincare, Aptar, Jindal Films, SABIC, Borealis, Neste and others have all publicised their involvement with ISCC.

Because the renewable or recycled raw materials are often processed together with conventional fossil materials, they need to be tracked independently and accounted for using an approach called mass balancing. The renewable or recycled materials are attributed to selected products allowing for their different masses and any losses.  Each member of the supply chain should become certified to ensure the sustainable origins of the raw materials and the correct operation of the mass balance system. Of course, companies that keep renewable or recycled feedstocks completely separate can choose the physical segregation option within ISCC PLUS.

SABIC has been working with ISCC for some time now to certify circular solutions under its TRUCIRCLE™ initiative that includes mechanically recycled products, certified circular products from feedstock recycling of plastic waste streams, certified renewables products from bio-based feedstock and design for re-use and recycling.  Mark Vester from SABIC explains; “As we are driving the transition to a circular economy we are processing renewable, recycled or conventional raw materials, and we use the mass balance principle to qualify the volumes of our circular products that our customers are asking for and that help them meet their sustainability objectives. ”

Borealis has started to produce polypropylene based on renewable feedstock from Neste. This is the first time that Borealis has replaced fossil fuel-based feedstock in its large-scale commercial production, moving the industry closer to a circular economy of plastics. Isabella Tonaco from Neste explains; “The ISCC PLUS system enables Neste-produced sustainable molecules to be recognized and accredited to the final plastic products, which is equally important to us and our customers and partners.”

Converters transform these polymers into many types of flexible and rigid packaging to suit the requirements of the food, medical, electronic and consumer goods industries. Jindal Films and Aptar are plastic transformation experts who have gained certification for their sites so they can provide certified recycled and renewable packaging for consumer brands.

Christophe Heintz from Jindal Films explains how they implement mass balancing; “We control all our material flows by weight and we know accurately the yields of all our different plants and processes, which allows us to carry out precise mass balance calculations. We are expanding our certification scope to more sites, to cope with the demand from new customers.” Sabine Bouillet Lubot, from Aptar, explains: “We are proud to be able to feature plastic from a new recycling technology in our Airless skincare packaging range. As part of the value chain partnership, for these injection moulded applications, we have used SABIC’s certified circular polymer that is ISCC PLUS certified, allowing us to provide a new offer to our customers looking for sustainable, qualitative and premium solutions”

And so to the final products that we buy in the shops. Brand owners source the wide range of packaging that they require from converters. Unilever is using SABIC’s chemically recycled polymers for Magnum and Knorr products as part of its pledge to achieve a 50% reduction of virgin plastic by 2025. Another Unilever brand, REN Clean Skincare, which is already ISCC PLUS certified, is aiming to be zero waste by 2021 so chemically recycled packaging provides an ideal extra solution. Frederic Dreux of Unilever declares; “Meeting our ambitious plastics sustainability goals will require innovation and collaboration with partners from across the industry and around the world. Certification provides the traceability and assures the origin of the raw materials, which is very important to earn consumer trust.”

As brand owners know, the package is the first thing we see when we are buying a product. Sustainability will be one factor influencing our choice and ISCC PLUS will be there to help us make our decision.

Download the article as pdf