EcoEnclose & Certifications
EcoEnclose & Certifications
Since our initial publishing of our Guide to Sustainable Certifications, our depth of knowledge and our use of certifications have expanded. Here, we detail EcoEnclose’s current certification status, evolved framework and decision-making criteria, and major takeaways after spending a year in this process.
As more and more brands work to bring ethically made, environmentally sound products to market, many will inevitably interact with certifications in some way. Certifications are an excellent way to communicate your investment in thoughtful production and products. But, like most things in sustainability, they are not silver bullets and should never be considered a failsafe to produce a "sustainable" product or supply chain.
We originally wrote and published our Guide to Sustainable Certifications in early 2022 to help our community of EcoAllies navigate the complex landscape of certifications when it comes to both packaging and the rest of their supply chain, and guiding them to make decisions on if and how to prioritize certifications in their sustainability strategy.
We were (and continue to remain) somewhat skeptical about the role that certifications play in moving the packaging industry forward, and circularity in particular. Specifically, we worry when brands equate sustainability goals with certifications rather than setting them around evolving concepts and sciences like circularity, carbon, and resource consumption (and then using certifications as one tool to help audit and verify progress towards these goals).
Despite our skepticism about the ability of certifications to be a push factor towards immediate and holistic progress in developing more circular packaging, we also understand that they play a role for brands and consumers in our current market and regulatory landscape - and large enterprise brands with complex supply chains often rely on certifications to help validate their claims.
To support these types of brands in our EcoAlly community, we are pleased to now (as of September 2023) have many offerings that are certified to third-party standards - FSC® Chain of Custody, Recycled Claim Standard (RCS), and NexTrex. Additionally, several stock products are prequalified by How2Recycle®. We hope our investments in third-party certifications help our largest brands meet their sustainable packaging requirements and goals.
This guide covers our current framework for assessing and pursuing supply-chain and product-level certifications, how the current market and legislative landscape affects certification decisions, and what certifications EcoEnclose pursued and why. You can also find our public database of certifications and an overarching guide to certifications in our Guide to Sustainable Certifications.
EcoEnclose's four key takeaways from the certification process
1) EcoEnclose certifications don't make EcoEnclose any more circular than before
We continue to recognize that certifications are not the end-all-be-all and should not take the place of product development through sustainability analysis and good faith improvement. Certifications don’t, for example, replace critical environmental steps like maximizing recycled content (and post-consumer waste specifically) in source materials, running LCA calculations for product carbon footprint, catalyzing innovation and source reduction, manufacturing close to the use-case or supply chain, or supply-chain mapping.
Regarding environmental impact, it’s accurate to say that some certified products are worse than non-certified alternatives.
For example, a 100% virgin paperboard mailer made with FSC®-certified tree fiber is a worse environmental choice than a 100% recycled paperboard mailer with no certifications (but, importantly - with good-faith documentation from a mill on the fiber's recycled content.)
A certified 100% recycled polymailer, made with 100% post-industrial waste (manufacturing scrap), doesn’t offer the same positive impact on materials circularity or support to the recycling industry as an uncertified, 100% recycled polymailer made with 50% post-consumer waste.
We believe that certifications do not replace the necessary work of having supply chain visibility and nurturing strong partnerships - trusting and positive supplier relationships are often the glue that holds a product’s development together. Remember that baseline information about the materials used in packaging and products can be found and gathered through many other methods before certifications are introduced or required.
Once you’ve reached a baseline understanding of packaging’s bill of materials, carbon and/or materials impact, and supply chain journey, then it makes sense to assess where certifications may bring a strategic improvement to a component of your packaging that could otherwise not be verified, or where verification of a claim is critical to your value proposition. This is how the EcoEnclose team approached our certification process.
Pursuing and achieving certifications did not change the material makeup of any of these products. Simply put, certifying these products did not improve their sustainability criteria, circularity, or alignment with our sustainable packaging framework. We worked to create and iterate these products to align with our circularity standards as the main priority, then pursued a certification to strengthen the existing attributes.
Given certifications’ inability to, on their own, make forward progress on product sustainability, what role do certifications play in the packaging supply chain?
2) Supply chain verification and risk reduction is essential especially when budgets for in-depth auditing are low
We recognize that more and more brands need and will need certifications, especially as we enter a packaging landscape that will require increasing compliance. Our certifications directly respond to the fact that more enterprise brands leverage certifications to monitor their complex supply chain.
Our experience shows a few strategic advantages to having a certified material, product, or supplier in packaging.
Certifications give a common language to material types.
When working with new manufacturing partners, plants, and converting partners overseas and in countries where the native language differs from our own, certifications offer a critical tool - a third party to define and categorize various material types. Where there may be a language barrier or different colloquial understandings, a third party can classify materials against a standard, ensuring that all parties are on the same page.
Example: Different regions of the world refer differently to the two main kinds of recycled content. In America, we usually refer to manufacturing scrap as post-industrial waste or PIW and post-consumer waste (from blue bins and consumer recycling streams) as PCW. However, other regions of the world use the acronym PCW interchangeably and differentiate it only by context: “pre-consumer” (meaning post-industrial) or “post-consumer.” Therefore, a manufacturing verification letter that states “100% PCW recycled content” may mean very different things, depending on who is reading and interpreting it.
Certifications can help brands to reduce risk within their supply chains, materials, and products.
Working with suppliers whose materials have gained third-party certification can be especially helpful for brands with publicly-stated sustainability, labor, or materiality goals, especially if their environmental claims may eventually face legal regulation.
Example: A publicly traded brand that commits to using 100% tree-free paper is under a much closer eye for potential mishaps in its supply chain and is in danger of legal action if they’re found to be sourcing tree-based paper and inaccurately labeling products. Certifications help verify the entire chain of custody of materials throughout the supply chain - giving brands with supply-chain or end-of-life packaging goals much more stability and ultimately reducing their risk and potential losses through legal action.
For global supply chains, certifications can help to verify labor, health, and safety standards that may not be relevant within a domestic supply chain.
Example: When pursuing our FSC® Chain of Custody certification this year, one of the required portions of our auditing process was to review and submit our official policy that outlawed child labor and forced labor in our organization. At first, we scratched our heads- this was probably an oversight, and we didn’t really need to have this as a standalone policy, right? Wasn’t this a given, since these policies were both required by United States law and our employee handbook and because our paper supply chain sits entirely domestic in the USA?
After further exploration, we learned that FSC®’s guidelines required this to be a separate and standing policy for any FSC®-certified chain of custody member because of the organization’s global reach and because child labor and forced labor are unfortunately still realities in many parts of the world. At first, it was just another task to complete for the certification process. Afterward, it represented much more.
It was a good reminder that these certifications, though still imperfect and still able to exist in locations with other poor behavior, can include and require important standards to be met for human health, safety, and equity across the globe - standards that some governments don’t require. While it may not be the primary reason for pursuing a certification like FSC®, for example, it’s a bonus to know that your chain of custody has all contractually agreed to a very basic level of concern and care for human and worker health.
Third-party packaging certifications can support the work of sustainability teams.
IIn 2023, sustainability teams within consumer-focused brands are currently facing swift and devastating budget cuts. This reduces their ability to complete projects and make forward progress on brand sustainability goals. Much of this stems from concerns about inflation and recession and how this stall in consumer spending will affect brands’ overall profitability. Unfortunately, departments like Sustainability are seen as more expendable and often face the chopping block first.
Even though sustainability goals and targets are often a critical (if not the critical) component for a brand’s ethos and marketing, the people behind how those goals are accomplished are usually the first to be stalled to redirect funds to more profit-related areas of a business, or to keep cash on-hand during difficult and uncertain financial times. In 2023, we’re approaching some of the most commonly cited years for vast and sweeping sustainability changes and improvements: 2025, 2030, 2040.
Sustainability professionals and leaders face a catch-22: their corporate ESG goals have never been closer, with more pressure and less time to reach them, AND they are cut at the knees regarding the available resources to achieve them. In some ways, certifications and certified packaging can help to achieve or reduce the human capital needed to verify some ESG goals.
Example: If a brand has a goal of achieving 100% widely recyclable packaging by 2025, a helpful process and labeling scheme might be to pursue How2Recycle membership, testing, and labeling for their packaging suite. Working with a packaging supplier who is also invested in keeping their packaging materials’ certifications up to date and valid is another way to leverage pre-existing certifications towards internal corporate goals. Packaging converters and producers can also work with How2Recycle to pre-qualify a handful of films or materials against H2R standards, allowing brands to choose a packaging producer more easily to align with inventory needs and sustainability goals.
3) The regulatory landscape and market is evolving
In the last year, we’ve seen an overwhelming amount of effort by the public sector to reign in and begin regulating the most polluting industries, specifically textiles, and packaging. At EcoEnclose, we see this as a win and a step towards a future where more of our “waste” materials and streams are viewed as the resources they really are. So far, four states have passed packaging EPR (extended producer responsibility) legislation (Maine, Oregon, California, and Colorado), and eleven more have EPR bills proposed for 2023.
Here are just a few:
Oregon’s Recycling Modernization Act (RMA) will, among other things, identify recyclability acceptance lists and collection targets/standards for packaging materials.
California’s SB 343 Truth in Labeling / Accurate Recycling Labels law: prohibits the use of the chasing arrows or any other indicator of recyclability on products and packaging unless certain criteria are met.
California EPR (SB 54) Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act: CalRecycle is likely to publish a list of recyclable and compostable materials in 2024, and regulations implementing the new law are set to be completed in 2025.
Colorado EPR Legislation: All producers that create or sell products in single-use packaging or food service ware in CO must join a PRO and begin paying fees in 2025.
Colorado SB23-253: Creates standards for products marketed or represented as compostable. The new law requires third-party validation and labeling distinction, like green or beige labels or symbols to market products as compostable. Unless the product is compostable-certified, the bill makes using a composting label or implying such a deceptive trade practice violation.
Maine EPR Legislation: The Board of Environmental Protection is anticipated to adopt technical rules and provisionally adopt major substantive rules by mid-2024, with the final adoption of substantive rules in mid-2025.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is revamping its Green Guides and is accepting comments from the public as part of this revision process as of February 2023.
P.S. Bookmark our Guide to EPR and Packaging Legislation, which has an up-to-date database of regulations and bans.
Truth in labeling
In terms of packaging, several bills, ordinances, and now laws (current or forthcoming) are focused on a critical component that has partially led us to this state of affairs: labeling.
If you’ve worked in the packaging or printed goods industry, when it comes to unregulated items like consumer goods within eCommerce and retail, you probably know that, in reality, you can print and say just about anything on a piece of packaging.
There is no sustainability spell check for dielines and proofs, an eco-board you need approval from or an alarm that goes off when the word “compostable” is printed onto a plastic (and definitely not compostable) film. You could cover your entire box in recycling loops of all kinds.
Sustainability and environmental labeling regulation leaves a lot to be desired.
All jokes aside, this reality is important to remember as a consumer and brand. Well-intentioned but vague verbiage about recyclability or compostability can be misleading, confusing, or contradictory to the consumer. Covering all of your bases (eco-friendly! recycle! sustainable! green!) can make it seem the same. This is why labeling for packaging, based on objective realities and truth, will become increasingly critical.
End of life: recycling, composting, and labeling
New regulations and increased public commitment to sustainability also increase demand for accurate, clear, and proven end-of-life labeling across all materials, especially plastic packaging. The days when a chasing-arrows recycle symbol can be blatantly plastered on packaging and products of any type will hopefully soon be in the past. This leads extruders, converters, and brands to review their recyclability labeling to ensure it is accurate and includes more explicit guidance to consumers.
Example: After several years of leading the nation in industrial composting and food waste diversion, in 2019, Oregon started refusing compostable plastic packaging and service ware into their composting streams due to massive amounts of contamination. Many materials labeled and claimed to be industrially compostable performed far below those expectations.
A similar story unfolded in early 2023 when Colorado's composter - A1 Organics - banned everything except for food and yard waste due to massive amounts of compostable packaging diluting and reducing the value of their compost. They no longer accept paper-based items like paper towels and coffee filters.
Stories like these lead to questions about whether using “compostable” or “biodegradable” labels at will by brands or packaging producers is more helpful or harmful in the grand scheme of things. Regulation’s response to this has focused on labeling and requires more scrutiny of these marketing and product labels.
Note: while these labeling guidelines and regulations are not yet in effect and, for many - may not reach the scope of eCommerce packaging for several more years - EcoEnclose has remained committed to steering clear of greenwashing, both purposeful or not. Our Art and Sustainability teams are highly trained to spot any potential claims that may be inaccurate, misleading, or untrue. Our sustainability team works one-on-one with brands to help them curate and print environmental claims accurately to keep brands in the clear on these complex topics. When you work with our team to produce your packaging, you can trust that a print won’t make it through our queue without a sustainability sign-off for accuracy.
Supply chain and product traceability
The EU has recently released its plans for a Digital Product Passport initiative for various sectors, including apparel, batteries, and consumer electronics.
This initiative will require brands to implement a new level of transparency for their products: its goal is “to enable sharing of key product related information that are essential for products’ sustainability and circularity,” to encourage “informed, more environmentally conscious decisions to facilitate sustainable design, production and consumption.”
Other certifications also aim to bring transparency to consumers around the most hidden portion of consumption: manufacturing and production. Schemes like FSC®, GRS, and RCS work to trace back the supply chain and create a chain of custody through which certified materials flow to the consumer.
It’s unclear how certifications like these might play a role in future labeling requirements, especially regarding claims around recycled content or nascent input materials.
4) Verifing certification claims in your supply chain is critical
Unfortunately, it is still very easy to claim certification where it doesn’t actually exist. Many packaging providers will claim certification! You’ll notice GRS, RCS, FSC®, and other certifications across the websites of many packaging companies - and many will also tell you that their product is XYZ certified.
Unfortunately, in many (arguably, most) cases, these claims are fraudulent, inaccurate, or purposefully vague.
Like with any sustainability claim, we advise against accepting a certification at face value, and we highly recommend that those tasked with sourcing certified packaging do their due diligence to ensure that the products and provider are, in fact, certified. There are a handful of ways to do this and a few common misconceptions or blunders to be aware of.
Confirm scope certifications from a certifying body
Providers that are truly certified to a scheme like FSC® or GRS should have a scope certificate from a certifying body (i.e., InterTek, SCS, Control Union) for the certification they’ve achieved (i.e., GRS). Upon request, these providers should provide this documentation before requiring any purchase.
The scope certificate should list the company's name, the products that are within their “scope” (make sure packaging is one of them), and the effective and expiration dates of their certification.
Search certification databases when available
For GRS and FSC® - search for the provider in the public databases, and they will come up. If they don’t, they are unlikely to be certified (and may simply be passing on a claim - accurate or inaccurate - from their supply chain.) Certification schemes explicitly forbid this rampant behavior.
Look for certification numbers on their site
If a certification is mentioned, the provider should publicly list their chain of custody or scope certificate number (like the certification tracking number) on their website and any product or product page in which it’s claimed. This allows purchasers like you to verify their claims.
Valid FSC® logos should include an FSC® license code, which, when typed into the FSC® search, should show this provider.
If the product’s FSC®-certified label doesn’t contain a license code, it may not be a legitimate FSC® logo.
If the FSC® license code doesn’t bring up the packaging provider’s information, they are not certified to FSC®’s Chain of Custody, meaning they are likely using this terminology and logo fraudulently or misguidedly.
Ask for certification documentation
How2Recycle or NexTrex certifications don’t offer the same ability to search for certified or pre-qualified providers in one place.
However, packaging providers should have documentation from these organizations available to share or listed publicly on their websites.
An evolved framework for EcoEnclose certification decisions
At EcoEnclose, our primary focus is to create circular packaging made of as much recycled content (specifically, post-consumer waste) as possible and widely recyclable at the end of life.
Our secondary focus is to ensure that our product set is evolving to get closer and closer to net-neutral or net-positive, meaning its production and use are an overall benefit to the planet. While this is a large (and sometimes vague) concept, the work we do to support this goal is to (1) vet the positive and negative ecological impact of emerging, innovative materials on things like climate change, forest preservation, biodiversity, soil health, ocean health, water consumption, etc.; and (2) catalyze the market adoption of the most promising materials we see.
Our values regarding certifications can thus be seen, in order of priority, as
Verifying source and input materials
Verifying recyclability at end of life
Ecoenclose tests all of our packaging for recyclability with third-party verifiers, like Western Michigan's University's Recycling Pilot Plant and EcoCycle.
For materials which are novel, hard-to-recycle, or less widely acceptable by curbside recycling programs in the USA - like thin film plastics or labels made from less-commonly used materials like BOPP or PE - it would be prudent for our team to pursue a third-party certification or verification. If we are encouraging consumers to recycle these materials, we’d do our due diligence to ensure that they are, truly, recyclable at end of life.
Verifying compostability at end of life
If we used “compostable” language and instructions on any of our packaging substrates (paper, poly, biopoly, etc.) we would only do so after pursuing an industry-verified field-testing certification like CMA (Compost Manufacturing Alliance) Field-testing.
Additionally, we often pursue certifications simply due to brand or customer requirements, as many large enterprises we serve are looking to derisk their supply chain.
While the certification business is still one that largely favors the largest, most established (and often, the least agile or innovative) players in an industry, we take an honest, good-faith approach to these requests and requirements from brands. We will always take the time to work one-on-one with our brands and EcoAllies to understand their priorities, business needs, and their needs for additional product-level certifications where they don’t yet exist and work to align with them.
Certified EcoEnclose products
EcoEnclose has certified a handful of our products. Below is a list of our stock products that a third-party certification has successfully verified. For details on each product’s certification(s), please visit the product specifications section on each page.
Forest Stewardship Council | FSC® Chain of Custody
Why we chose this certification
While the minority of products certified to our FSC® chain of custody actually come from virgin tree fiber, this certification scheme is well-equipped and built to handle both recycled and virgin paper fibers and products along the supply chain. While recycled content will always be our priority input material, and we’ve always publicly supplied our documentation of this recycled content, the FSC® chain of custody certification gives our customers - and end-consumers who receive our packaging - an extra level of verification.
Additionally, many customers and brands were highly interested in our recycled paper products, and the denotation of FSC®-certified was an added bonus and layer of transparency for their sourcing teams. This also played a role in our decision to eventually proceed with this process of auditing and certification for paper products.
Lastly, one of our foremost industry partners is Canopy - who is focused on helping the industry move supply chains away from ancient and endangered forest fiber. They were instrumental in helping us understand the various forest management and paper certification schemes on the market. They have always been avid proponents of FSC®’s rigor over any other forest certification scheme. At their recommendation, we began seriously considering it for our own, albeit mostly forest fiber-free, supply chain.
As of September 25, 2023, the products we’ve certified to our Chain of Custody are:
Note: For our recycled products and our Paper Earth Film Pouch, we’ve prioritized officially bringing these products into our chain of custody process before printing our FSC® logo onto stock products themselves. We think the certification is most important, and labeling it is a bonus. Expect to see the FSC® logo, with our license code, printed onto these materials in the coming months - year.
What we learned
The FSC® certification process can be scary from the outside. It’s time-intensive, confusing, and sometimes exhausting to complete the steps needed for the first audit.
After completing it, our main takeaways are:
1) The majority of time preparing for the audit is creating guidance documents for your supply chain and processes. Plan to dig in and do it right the first time! Your future self will thank you.
2) If you have preexisting batching, quality, and monitoring software or shipping/receiving systems, the FSC® chain of custody typically aligns well with them. It won’t add much work, day-to-day.
3) Read and reread the standards. If you can find a buddy (i.e., a consultant or someone who’s completed it before) to ask for help, do it. The jargon can be like legalese, and without examples or someone to bounce it off for accuracy, it can be easy to feel like you’re off the right track.
4) Packaging is an interesting application for the FSC® standards, but arguably, one of the most straightforward. The process is fairly straightforward, especially if you utilize the transfer system or engage in only one or a few conversion steps.
5) Even FSC® CoC certified companies can still interpret the standards differently. Make sure you’re on the same page as your supply chain partners.
We re-learned how easily other brands can use an FSC® logo, language, or claims without actually being certified. And we’re realizing that in the past, we were guilty of using FSC® language and descriptions very casually. We have a new appreciation for their guidelines and language requirements for brands that haven’t undergone the certification and auditing process.
FSC® License Code: FSC-C190100
EcoEnclose FSC® Chain of Custody Scope Certificate
Recycled Claim Standard | RCS
Why we chose this certification
Many of our customers are apparel brands who have certified their product supply chain to the Textile Exchange’s standards.
EcoEnclose has pursued the Textile Exchange’s Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) scheme for our poly-based products because these are currently produced in (and supplied by inputs from) the United States. The RCS standard contains all of the recycled-content elements of GRS but does contain the labor and chemical standards that are generally important when vetting overseas factories.
It’s becoming increasingly important to address our plastic pollution and consumption problems by prioritizing using recycled plastics to produce new products. While we are typically quick to push consumers to recycle their plastics, the industry has historically been much less willing to use that recycled content in new products. As we know, a cycle only works when both sides have supply and demand.
We’ve been catalyzers in this space by using the development of our recycled plastic products to push the packaging industry’s boundaries forward and ultimately prove that recycled content can and should be used when producing thin film products. After developing our recycled poly mailer, which included the most post-consumer waste of any polymailer on the market, we decided this product would be one where certification - and, importantly, a third-party, unbiased seal of approval- would give our years-long endeavor a level of credibility that distinguished our team, and our mission, in the marketplace.
As of September 25, 2023, the products we’ve certified to the RCS standard are:
Note: certified recycled product often contain additional additives and colorants for functionality
What we learned
When certifying our poly-based products, we gained a deep understanding of the makeup of PE films, how colorants and additives are used in film extrusion to ensure functionality and printability needs are met, and the difference between a functional resin versus a mass balance approach to recycling standards. This has led us to evolve our use of additives and colorants to meet the mass balance standards of RSC.
We learned that while GRS is the more frequently-cited certification amongst packaging providers, the process for achieving the “recycled” component of certification for both is the same. RCS is a certification scheme created by the Textile Exchange. RCS is one of three pillars of focus in a more widely-encompassing scheme called GRS - the other two pillars are chemical management, and workers’ health, safety, and child labor.
RCS Scope Certificate: SCS-RCS-08762
EcoEnclose's RCS Scope Certificate
Why we chose this certification
We chose to pursue H2R labeling to support the work and labeling many of our brands already do with How2Recycle.
How2Recycle is one of the most widely recognized labeling frameworks for packaging end-of-life. Many of the brands we support already use H2R labels on other kinds of packaging and have requested the same labels for the packaging we produce for them.
The most relevant application of this label has been for products that are not curbside recyclable, or products that contain multiple components and materials, and since the majority of our packaging suite is either paper-based (curbside recyclable) or thin-film plastic (drop-off recyclable) we pursued a prequalification for our thin film products.
As of September 25, 2023, our pre-qualified How2Recycle products are:
What we learned
For many years, How2Recycle designated PE film (whether or not it contained paper labels) as eligible for Store Drop Off. These days, you’ll see Amazon Bubble Mailers featuring a more stringent label: Remove Paper Label Before Recycling Store Drop Off. Despite Amazon Bubble Mailers carrying this How2Recycle label, we have found through our recent interactions with How2Recycle requests that this label is not given to anyone but Amazon. We have not gotten clarity from How2Recycle as to why Amazon continues to carry this label on their bubble mailer while other packages and companies cannot. Read more about this here.
Since How2Recycle focuses on reducing contamination in the thin film recycling space (for, at least, the products they certify), they have specific requirements for thin film eCommerce packaging certified as Thin Film Recyclable. These requirements are meant to remove additional components of thin film packaging that may hinder recyclability. Brand requirements are
1) Using an APR (Association of Plastics Recyclers) -approved label, either made with PE or a specially formatted blend of plastic and adhesive that APR has approved for recycling, AND
2) The packaging may only have one seal strip- no double seal strips for shipment returns or reuse. This is relevant if a customer recycles the bag instead of reusing it for a return; the extra seal strip and release liner remain on the bag, and these components could be considered contamination.
The process of communicating with H2R’s team is relatively smooth, and once begun, our prequalification process took a few weeks to complete. It’s worth noting that since H2R is a membership-based organization, brands who are members will receive the fastest service when working with the verification team at H2R.
Learn more in our guide: The Ultimate Guide to Thin Film Recycling and How2Recycle Labeling
Why we chose this certification
Trex is a composite lumber company whose use of recycled thin film represents roughly 90%+ of the current thin film recycled today. Given that Trex is more likely than not the end-buyer of any thin film recycled in the North American marketplace, we were interested in pursuing this certification over others because of its realistic and practical assessment of materials.
As of September 25, 2023, the products we've certified to the NexTrex standard are:
Note: Brands can apply the NexTrex label without being individually certified.
What we learned
Trex has no issues with paper labels because these do not create problems with their current process of taking thin film / LDPE plastics and turning them into sturdy, long-lasting composite lumber. Trex is more concerned with high levels of non-PE plastic materials (PET and PP), grease and food residue, and metal contamination. This is because these contaminating materials may have higher melting points than PE, which leads the recycling process to result in unusable decking materials that do not meet their strength and aesthetic standards.
As such, Trex readily accepts thin film packaging even with paper labels on it. Packaging can be certified by Trex’s NexTrex program as having been tested and verified that the material can be successfully recycled into composite lumber. The NexTrex label is typically given to PE film that will carry paper labels but is often denied due to the presence of metal, high volumes of non-PE additions, or if the residue will likely be left behind in the packaging.
Getting certified with NexTrex is a different process than pursuing How2Recycle certification. Since Trex is the end purchaser and uses the reclaimed materials in their manufacturing, they can set specific guidelines for what they will and won’t accept. Brands interested in testing their plastic film material with Trex should contact Stephanie Hicks (SHICKS@trex.com) for more information. They will then be asked to send samples in to have the materials analyzed and put through a test recycling process.
After tests are complete, they grant certification to the requester. Since they accept paper labels in their collection process, they don’t need more information about the shipping label before certifying the packaging. For example, whether the label is APR-certified.
This process was efficient, timely, and relatively painless. The team at Trex is genuinely committed to their direct impact on this recycling sector.
How will EcoEnclose prioritize future certifications?
We continue to get requests for certifications from the conscious brands we work with. Going forward, EcoEnclose will continue to use our framework to determine the highest-priority areas to pursue third-party certification, recognizing that we won’t pursue a certification without doing it correctly and we will steer clear of fraudulent or misleading claims.
We will prioritize the areas of extraction, sourcing, and production since that is where most of a product’s environmental footprint is derived. As with our sustainable packaging framework, our certifications focus will prioritize the source materials used in our products, with secondary importance on verifying products' end-of-life as needed.
Expect to see more of our (already-certified) FSC® products brought into our chain of custody umbrella over time.
Verifying the supply chain of recycled plastics used in our packaging.
End of Life
- Thin-film plastics
- Multi-component materials and packaging
- Compostale food-grade packaging