News About SCS

Recycled Plastic Certification: A Path to Responsible Production

This is a comprehensive guide on the recycled plastic certification process. Learn about the different types of certifications, their benefits, and how to earn them.

Recycled Plastic Certification: A Path to Responsible Production

The growing demand for recycled plastic marks a new era in product manufacturing, waste management and sustainable consumption. According to a report by Closed Loop Partners, it is projected that by 2030, the demand for recycled plastic will increase by 200% to 300% compared to current levels.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to expand the supply in the market, especially considering that, as Circular Matters points out, recycled plastics currently only meet 6% of the demand for common resins, such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).

Within the already limited availability of recycled plastic, certified materials represent an even smaller fraction, exacerbating concerns about supply chain sustainability. Ernst & Young notes that this shortage is a headwind for big brands and retailers committed to reducing the use of virgin plastic in favor of recycled options, with ambitious targets set for 2025.

Since the widespread use of plastic in the 1950s, its post-consumer management was not prioritized until recycling gained popularity in the 1970s with the development of mechanical and chemical recycling technologies.

Denisse Ortez, technical director of SCS Global Services, in an interview with Plastics Technology Mexico, emphasizes that the current focus is towards the circular economy, where plastic waste is reintegrated into the life cycle of the product, avoiding its end in the environment.

"This paradigm shift not only represents a technical and logistical challenge, but also requires the collaboration of multiple actors in the value chain, including those in charge of certifying effective recycling," says Ortez.

Why is recycled plastic certification important?

The importance of certifications is twofold: they ensure the integrity of the supply chain and combat consumer skepticism by verifying claims about recycled content. Ernst & Young points out that the growth in the use of recycled polymers will increase regulators' reliance on these certifications to prevent greenwashing.

Legislation at the state and federal levels is being implemented to encourage the use of circular plastics. For example, California law requires producers of certain packaging and single-use plastics to incorporate a minimum of 30% recycled material starting in 2028, a figure that will increase to 65% by 2032.

The European Union has also updated its directive on unfair commercial practices, requiring companies to avoid generic environmental claims without a third-party verification system.

In this context, Ortez highlights the relevance of certifications in plastics recycling, stating that "third-party verifications add credibility and trust to claims about the recycled content of your products."

Recycled Content Legislation in Mexico and Latin America

Both Mexico and Latin America are witnessing a boom in the creation of laws regulating the use of recycled content in products. This trend seeks to encourage responsible production and consumption, while reducing the environmental impact of plastic and other materials.

In Mexico, the General Law on Circular Economy (LGEC) is positioned as the main regulation in this area. The LGEC promotes the responsible production and consumption of products, including the use of recycled content. In addition, the Official Mexican Standard NOM-013-ENER-2013 establishes specific recycled content requirements for PET containers and packaging.

Complementing these measures, the National Circular Economy Strategy defines targets for the use of recycled content in different sectors, including the plastics sector. For its part, the National Agreement for the New Plastics Economy seeks to eliminate or restrict the use of single-use plastics and increase the recycling rate.

In Latin America, there is also a dynamic landscape in terms of recycled content legislation. Some relevant examples are:

  • Chile: Law 20.920 establishes the framework for waste management, extended producer responsibility (EPR) and the promotion of recycling. This law, known as the REP Law, is a fundamental pillar for sustainable waste management in Chile, forcing producers to take charge of the life cycle of their products, especially with regard to the collection and treatment of discarded products.
  • Colombia: Decree 596 of 2016 and its updates regulate the Extended Producer Responsibility Law and establish the framework for the management of packaging waste. This decree specifies the obligations of producers regarding the collection and recovery of waste, promoting the use of recycled content.
  • Peru: Law 30884 prohibits the manufacture, import, distribution, and use of single-use plastic bags, straws, and other non-reusable plastic items. In addition, it promotes the use of sustainable alternatives and recycling, contributing to the reduction of the environmental impact of plastic.
  • Argentina: The packaging law establishes a comprehensive management system for containers and packaging.

With these initiatives and the implementation of independent third-party audits, the aim is to build a more robust and sustainable circular economy, where transparency and accountability are key pillars.

Types of Certification for Recycled Plastic

Among the certifications available on the market, several stand out for their rigor and international recognition, including the Global Recycled Standard (GRS), Recycled Content Standard (RCS), and the Plastics Recycling Initiative (PIR) certification.

Each of these certifications addresses specific aspects of plastics recycling, from verifying recycled content to managing the supply chain and associated environmental and social impacts.

Denisse Ortez, CTO of SCS Global Services—a company with four decades of experience in sustainability certifications, consulting, and third-party standards development that has issued more than 30,000 certificates—explains in detail some of these certifications and their characteristics.

Recycled Content Certification

This certification gives manufacturers the ability to independently verify the percentage of their products made from recycled materials, both post-consumer and pre-consumer. This distinction, which is not limited exclusively to plastics, is critical for companies looking to make verified claims about the use of recycled content in their items.

By obtaining this certification, organizations can not only meet the requirements demanded by retailers, but also excel in their respective markets.

In addition, certification facilitates the inclusion of products in environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP) programs and contributes significantly to green building programs, such as LEED.

Global Recycled Standard (GRS)

It is a voluntary standard designed to ensure traceability and verification of the content of recycled materials in final products, applicable throughout the entire supply chain.

This regulation, owned by Textile Exchange, is not limited exclusively to the textile industry, but extends to a wide variety of products, including those containing plastics, as long as they incorporate at least 20% recycled material in their composition.

The GRS encompasses multiple critical aspects related to sustainable production: from the processing, packaging, marketing and distribution of products, to the implementation of environmental principles, compliance with social requirements and the restriction of harmful chemicals.

In addition, it emphasizes the importance of proper labeling, providing a reliable tool for companies to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable and responsible practices to consumers.

Recycled Claim Standard (RCS)

It is a voluntary standard that establishes chain-of-custody requirements for tracking recycled raw materials throughout the supply chain. This standard establishes specific criteria for the chain of custody, thus making it possible to trace recycled raw materials throughout the entire supply process, from their origin to the end consumer.

The RCS is applicable to any product that contains at least 5% recycled material, guaranteeing certification at each production stage, starting at the point of recycling and culminating with the last seller in the chain of commercial transactions between companies.

A distinctive feature of the RCS is its exclusive focus on the traceability of recycled materials, without taking into consideration other aspects, such as the social or environmental impacts derived from the processing and manufacture of the products, as well as the quality of the products or their compliance with current legislation.


This voluntary scheme has been established as a key global initiative for waste and residue recovery, providing a vital source of raw material for the creation of circular plastics and chemical intermediates.

This certification, which covers a wide range of consumer products, promotes traceability throughout the supply chain, ensuring that mass balance accounting adheres to predefined and transparent rules.

This approach is not only limited to standard supply chain verification, but also includes "Physical Segregation" and "Controlled Mixing" practices, reinforcing ISCC PLUS's commitment to the circular economy.

The ISCC PLUS certification stands out for being a voluntary scheme that is effectively integrated into the field of bioeconomy and circular economy, focusing on critical sectors such as plastics.

Standard Global Zero Waste

This standard represents a significant step forward in companies' path to sustainability, emphasizing the importance of not only recycling but also reducing and reusing the waste generated. This certification, also offered by SCS Global Services, stands out for its ability to effectively communicate the strategies adopted by organizations to minimize their waste footprint, marking a milestone in the adoption of circular economy practices.

Denisse Ortez underlines the relevance of waste reduction and reuse, components that are often relegated but are essential to achieve comprehensive waste management. The Zero Waste Standard stands as a key tool in this process, providing a framework for companies to demonstrate their commitment to phasing out waste generation destined for landfills.

Through the assessment in the Zero Waste Standard, which measures the amount of waste diverted from landfill in relation to the total generated, a clear view of the progress of companies in their efforts to optimize their waste management is provided.

How to Get Certified for Recycled Plastic: A How-To Guide

According to Denisse Ortez, CTO at SCS Global Services, companies looking to certify post-consumer recycled plastic content in their products face a number of significant challenges.

First of all, it involves adaptations in production processes. The need to standardize these processes to ensure the consistency of recycled content adds an extra layer of complexity.

Interested in finding out how to start the recycled plastic certification process?

Plastics Recycling LATAM, a conference and exhibition that will take place on September 10 and 11 at the World Trade Center in Mexico City, is the ideal setting for you to receive guidance in this process. Focused on promoting plastics recycling in Mexico and Latin America, this meeting is the perfect platform to gain knowledge, network and explore the latest innovations in the sector.

With the participation of key players in the plastics recycling value chain, including brand owners, plastics processors, recyclers, packaging designers and academic representatives, Plastics Recycling LATAM is a convergence space for the exchange of ideas and experiences.

The event has a conference program, covering the most important aspects for the advancement of plastic recycling, complemented by a technological and service exhibition. Companies such as SCS Global Services will offer guidance and advice to attendees, contributing significantly to the growth and sustainability of the sector.

For more information, visit the Plastics Recycling LATAM website.

Another hurdle is ensuring the traceability and transparency of the recycled plastic supply chain. Given the variety of sources from which materials can come, establishing a reliable system to trace the origin and journey of recycled plastic is essential, but also challenging. This is compounded by the need to maintain clear and effective communication with recycled plastic suppliers, especially when it comes to managing changes in certification requirements and material quality.

In addition, success in implementing sustainable practices depends largely on staff training and awareness of the importance of certification and associated processes.

It is critical that staff understand their role within this collective effort and are committed to its execution.

Finally, companies must face the challenge of keeping up with evolving regulations and standards affecting recycled plastics. Adapting to these changes requires not only constant vigilance but also the ability to quickly adjust operations in response to new demands.

Each of the standards follows its own certification protocols. SCS Global Services, for example, guides new clients through the steps they need to take to undergo the assessment or audit. These include:

  1. Fill out a form in which you provide the details of the site and operation. To this, SCS will return a proposal for approval with the suggested scope of work, timeline, and quote.
  2. Once the proposal is accepted and signed, a record of the entity and scope is made under the program of interest.
  3. SCS schedules the audit, assigns the auditor, and provides an audit plan.
  4. The audit is carried out to assess compliance with the standard. Upon completion of the audit, the SCS auditor provides you with a report listing the non-conformities.
  5. Identified non-conformances must be addressed and provide SCS with evidence of corrective actions within a specific time determined by each standard.
  6. SCS reviews the audit report and corrective action documentation to make a certification decision.
  7. For those who achieve certification, a final audit report and certificate are issued.

Benefits of Using Certified Recycled Plastic

The growing awareness of sustainability among consumers is changing the landscape of the plastics industry, leading to an ever-increasing demand for products that are not only efficient and durable, but also environmentally responsible.

In this context, the use of certified recycled plastic is emerging as a strategic solution for companies seeking to align their business practices with consumers' expectations of sustainability.

Recycled plastic certification is a process that validates the authenticity and quality of recycled content in products, thus ensuring that companies meet certain environmental and sustainability standards.

This verification process plays a critical role in not only strengthening positive brand perception and increasing customer satisfaction, but also ensuring transparency and integrity in the sustainable product supply chain.

In addition to the benefits already mentioned, the use of certified recycled plastic provides additional advantages that are critical for environmental sustainability and economic efficiency:

  • Transparency and trust: Certification ensures transparency in recycling practices, building trust in the supply chain and among consumers, which drives the procurement of sustainable products.
  • Prevention of unethical practices: prevents greenwashing by ensuring that products promoted as sustainable actually meet such claims, contributing to the integrity of the industry.
  • Differentiation in the marketplace: allows companies to differentiate themselves by backing up their claims with objective evidence and certifications, crucial to product choices by consumers and businesses.
  • Reduced dependence on virgin raw materials: offers environmental and economic benefits by reducing the need for new raw materials.
  • Regulatory compliance: facilitates compliance with specific regulations in some markets and sectors, related to waste management and sustainability.
  • Promotion of the circular economy: promotes a circular economy by using recycled plastic, reducing the amount of waste and minimizing the environmental impact of its disposal.
  • Innovation and development of new markets: encourages innovation in recycling technologies and the development of new products and markets for recycled materials, opening up new business opportunities and fostering competitiveness.
  • Spurring innovation in product design: The use of recycled plastic drives innovation in product design, encouraging companies to think about how products can be designed in a way that facilitates recycling at the end of their life, thus contributing to waste reduction.

Verification of traceability and authenticity of post-consumer recycled plastic

Ensuring the authenticity and traceability of post-consumer recycled plastic is a critical process in the supply chain to ensure that recycled materials are genuine and their provenance verifiable at every step.

Denisse Ortez explains that, for example, from the perspective of the ISCC Plus Standard, all links in the supply chain are evaluated. This process begins from the point of origin, where the waste is generated, through a rigorous verification of the quantities produced, the quality and accuracy of the equipment used to measure the material, including calibrations and maintenance programs, as well as the competence of the personnel involved and the review of inventories.

The role of auditors is critical, as they must confirm on-site that the systems implemented by operators are robust enough to adequately quantify post-consumer plastic, avoiding discrepancies in declarations in terms of quantities and material characteristics.

This audit is the first step in establishing a reliable traceability chain, which extends from the origin of the waste to its transformation into a final product. This process makes it possible to clearly identify the post-consumer recycled plastic content in products, vital information for consumers.

In addition, the ISCC Plus standard facilitates the issuance of sustainability claims that accompany the material throughout the entire supply chain. These declarations give companies that receive plastic as a raw material the necessary confidence about its post-consumer origin.

The significance of this process is manifested in the final stage, when the producer can inform the consumer about the recycled plastic content by means of a specific label. This practice not only reinforces the transparency and reliability of recycled products, but also promotes environmental responsibility and sustainability in the plastics industry.

Innovation and Sustainability: Strategies for the Use of Recycled Plastic

Recycled plastic certification represents a significant investment for companies, due to the costs associated with audits, documentation, and compliance with standards; However, these additional costs can be offset by long-term benefits, such as differentiation in the market, attracting sustainability-conscious consumers, and aligning with current industry trends.

Below, we break down the most relevant aspects of this commitment to innovation and sustainability.

  • Investment in certification: Certification of recycled plastic involves significant costs related to audits, documentation, and compliance with standards, essential to ensure the quality and sustainability of recycled material.
  • Long-term benefits: Despite the upfront costs, long-term benefits include differentiation in the market, attracting sustainability-conscious consumers, and alignment with current industry trends.
  • Challenges in manufacturing: Incorporating recycled plastic into manufacturing processes requires significant adjustments and adaptation to technologies and equipment capable of processing these materials efficiently, which can influence production costs.
  • Logistics costs: The recycled plastic supply chain can incur additional logistical costs, especially in collecting materials from various sources, adding complexity to the production process.
  • Price variability: Prices for recycled plastics can vary significantly depending on availability and demand, sometimes offering a cheaper cost compared to virgin plastics, which affects the cost-benefit ratio.
  • Strategic decision: The integration of certified recycled plastic into production represents a strategic decision that reflects environmental responsibility and has a direct impact on production costs and the final price of the product.
  • Cost-benefit assessment: It is crucial to make a careful assessment of the initial costs versus the long-term benefits, always keeping the perspective of the importance of aligning with the preferences of a sustainability-focused market.

Future Outlook: The Market for Certified Recycled Plastics

Denisse Ortez anticipates a promising future for the certified recycled plastics market, influenced by a growing focus on sustainability, government regulation, consumer demand, and industry initiatives.

This market is at an inflection point, where the convergence of these factors will determine its evolution in the coming years, pointing towards a greater adoption of sustainable practices.

In a global landscape where initiatives vary in magnitude, from modest efforts to ambitious projects, there is a common denominator: alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 12, which seeks to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. This goal has catalyzed a movement towards sustainability which, in turn, drives demand for certified recycled plastics.

The general expectation is that this demand will intensify, as both businesses and consumers integrate sustainability into the core of their decisions. This shift not only reflects a growing environmental awareness, but also a recognition of the need to adapt business and consumption practices to ecological imperatives.

Thus, the future of the certified recycled plastics market is shaped under the influence of these interconnected factors, with a projection towards growth and the integration of more sustainable practices in the global value chain. The direction this market will take is a reflection of the collective commitment to sustainability, marking a step forward towards a greener future.