How PCR Certification Works for a Processor
Texas-based Birch Plastics recently worked with a third-party auditor to verify its recycling process, a step that more waste pickers and blenders are considering as end users seek certainty in their raw materials.
Birch Plastics, headquartered in Houston, has achieved GreenCircle certifications for its PP and HDPE.
“We wanted to be able to provide a material for companies looking to achieve their sustainability goals and be able to be different from other preparators and recyclers who don’t have GreenCircle certification,” said Rob Lang, CEO of Birch Plastics. , said Plastics Recycling Update.
GreenCircle is a third-party certification company founded in 2009 to substantiate recycling claims, one of many that offer such a service. The company is one of four third-party certification companies approved by the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) PCR Certification Program. APR’s program lists 15 APR member companies with certified PCR (APR owns Resource Recycling, Inc., publisher of Plastics Recycling Update).
GreenCircle Certification Associate Katie Feenan told Plastics Recycling Update that the company primarily focuses on product and facility certifications. There has been renewed interest in third-party certification in many sectors, she added, and “it definitely protects against any risk of making claims that no one else supports”.
“There’s so much out there right now that having this third party say that’s actually what’s in our products is really powerful,” Feenan added.
Birch Plastics started in 2001 and specializes in recycled compounds, Lang said. It sells virgin PP and PE, but this main product accounts for only about 30% of sales. The main facility, located in Houston, is 100,000 square feet and has 28 employees.
The processing plant has three large crushing systems, one of which is a chipper-shredder combo, and the facility has a total capacity of 52 million pounds per year. There are also four composition lines. Birch Plastics has an extrusion capacity of 31 million pounds per year. Lang said most of the PP they sell is for housewares, HVAC and industrial parts.
Additionally, Birch Plastics has a testing lab and can manufacture custom compounds. It also offers toll services and about 20% of its business is closed-loop recycling programs, Lang said.
How the audit worked
Lang said GreenCircle “did due diligence.” For six weeks in February and March, Birch Plastics underwent an audit of its process. They are now certified from March 1, 2022 to February 28, 2023.
“You have to match what you’re buying with what you’re selling, so they’re making sure that if you’re reporting so many millions of recycled pounds that you’re bringing in that raw material,” Lang said.
GreenCircle certifies to international standards, and before the certification expires, the company will recontact customers and check if they want to renew, Feenan said. If so, the same process begins again.
After the audit, Birch Plastics received two main GreenCircle certifications, one for PP and one for HDPE. Within these categories, there are six certified PP grades and one certified HDPE grade, Lang said.
Lang said he’s seeing increased demand for certified recycled materials as governments and companies develop content mandates. Birch Plastics works primarily in post-industrial scrap, but Lang said there’s a lot of demand.
“One of the issues is there’s not enough post-consumer to meet those mandates, so I think they’re going to have to have a little combination of post-consumer and pre-consumer in order to get enough material,” he said.
Certification provides a differentiator
Birch Plastics also stands out for the company’s ISO 9001 certification, which covers management systems and safety, Lang said.
“Not many companies in our industry have that,” Lang said. Having held ISO 9001 certification for the past two years, and now GreenCircle certifications, Lang said Birch Plastics’ reputation stands out. He said that so far there has been interest in certified compounds.
“There’s been a lot of sampling and a lot of big companies wanting to buy large quantities,” Lang said.
In June, Birch Plastics expects production of 600,000 pounds of natural PP and about 300,000 of black HDPE, a bottle blowing grade.
Lang said a few companies have reached out specifically for GreenCircle certification, but most are only looking for certified recycled content.
“We are looking to expand our product line to post-consumer bottle quality,” Lang said. “We are looking for a good supplier of washed and dried HDPE post-consumer bottle flakes that we can then compound.”
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