RCS100-Certified Mailers


Our latest product launch and a guide to recycled content certifications for poly film

by Sarah Quirk  • published June 3, 2024 • 14 minute read
recycled 100 claim standard logo
EcoEnclose is proud to offer the first of its kind RCS100-certified recycled poly mailer.
With more brands seeking third-party verification in their supply chains, we are excited to provide a mailer with on-package third-party certification of recycled content.

Shop RCS100-Certified Poly Mailers

What is RCS100 Certification?

RCS (Recycled Claim Standard) is a certification scheme developed and managed by the Textile Exchange to trace and verify recycled inputs in a supply chain.
Its three main goals are to align definitions of “recycled” across different applications, verify recycled content in products, and give brands and consumers a means to make informed buying decisions.

The Recycled Claim Standard has two branches: RCS100 and RCS Blend. RCS100 certification is for products made from 100% recycled content with additives at or below 5% of the product’s total weight. RCS Blend certification is for levels of recycled content less than 95%.

Why is This Certification Exciting?

EcoEnclose RCS100-certified poly mailers are the first on the market to be certified to the RCS100 standard and to have this certification label printed directly onto them.
Any brand or consumer curious to verify the certification of these mailers can do so simply by going to Textile Exchange and searching for EcoEnclose amongst the list of certified companies.
This clarity and transparency is unique in the world of packaging.
Several packaging providers claim to have their overseas-manufactured packaging certified to various sustainability and supply chain schemes. Still, when we dig in, these claims tend to be vague, not product-specific, or cannot be printed on-package for consumer visibility.
Many providers list “GRS 4.0” but don’t offer transparency into certificates they hold that would validate these claims. These providers often don’t hold these certifications themselves and instead pass along a claim from their overseas manufacturing partners. This practice is not valid in the world of certifications because these claims can - intentionally or inadvertently - mislead consumers and brands into believing a product is certified when a chain of custody of verification has been broken.

The Importance of Domestic Manufacturing

EcoEnclose RCS100-certified poly mailers are the only domestically manufactured poly mailer options available with any third-party verification.
Our commitment to manufacturing in the USA is critical to our ultimate vision of circularity and to the importance we place on transparency. By manufacturing domestically, we are sourcing post-consumer waste generated here in the US and helping to drive investments in recycling and remanufacturing infrastructure to make all packaging out of packaging eventually.
We’ve also found that when sourcing post-consumer content domestically, we have visibility into where it comes from.
Today, we know our sources of waste are typically HDPE (traditional plastic milk jugs) and clean LDPE film (such as pallet wrap and agricultural film). When we engage with overseas manufacturers, we have little to no visibility into where and how the recycled content is sourced and if the post-consumer waste supply chain is continuously audited.

Should I Choose RCS100-Certified Poly Mailers?

If your brand prefers or requires third-party certification, our RCS100-certified poly mailers might suit you. However, they have significant differences in aesthetics and performance when compared to our standard 100% recycled poly mailers.
Aesthetically, our standard offering is available in ivory and gray and has consistent coloring, a smooth texture, and a more premium feel. Our RCS100-certified poly mailers are only available in off-white with a slight gray tint. They have some texture and gelling inconsistencies and a somewhat brittle feel.
Financially, our RCS100-certified poly mailers are slightly more expensive than our standard offering.
In summary, if RCS certification is important, choose our RCS100-certified poly mailers. If cost, texture, or color consistency is most important, choose our standard recycled poly mailers.

Why do two 100% recycled poly mailers look and feel so different?

The answer lies in the additives that enhance poly films' printability, color, and performance.
Our RCS100-certified poly mailers have less than half the additives of our standard mailers. Read on for a comprehensive guide to RCS100-certified mailers, additives, and how to navigate these two different options.
While RCS100-certified poly mailers represent an exciting step forward in minimizing the additives needed to produce packaging, our standard poly mailers are an excellent, high-post-consumer waste option. We don’t believe either is more circular or sustainable than the other, and we are here to work with brands looking to decide between the two.

Dive Deeper: Common Questions Answered

How do RCS100-certified mailers differ from our standard stock poly mailers?

While the functional plastic resin in both mailer options is made from 100% recycled content, the amount of additives in each differs.

Here’s a high-level breakdown of these mailer options:

ecoenclose ivory 100% recycled poly mailer

100% Recycled Poly Mailers

Standard Additive Levels
Functional plastic resin is 100% recycled content
50% PCR (post-consumer resin)
50% PIR (post-industrial / pre-consumer resin)
Functional plastic resin makes up about 88-90% of the mailer film by weight. Up to 12% of the film’s weight is made from additives.
ecoenclose off white rcs100 poly mailer

RCS100-Certified Poly Mailers

Low Additive Levels
Functional plastic resin is 100% recycled content
56% PCR (post-consumer resin)
44% PIR (post-industrial / pre-consumer resin)
Functional plastic resin makes up about 95% of the mailer film by weight. Up to 5% of the film’s weight is made from additives.

Why the focus on additives?

As EcoEnclose sought to bring the first on-package certified poly mailer to market, we decided to pursue the Recycled Claim Standard, a scheme developed and owned by the Textile Exchange because of the organization’s history of bringing transparency, guidance, and circularity to the apparel industry for over 20 years.

Their Recycled Claim Standard scheme allows RCS100 to be used on products and packaging that have (1) 100% recycled content in functional inputs and (2) additives that represent up to 5% of the product’s total weight. RCS Blend will be used if less than 100% of the functional inputs are made from recycled content or if additives represent more than 5% of the product by weight.

Read More: Recycled Claim Standard: RCS100 (Textile Exchange)

As EcoEnclose pursued RCS100 certification, we continuously refined our film blend to reduce additives to below 5% of the material by weight.

Are RCS100-certified mailers better and more circular?

We don’t believe that RCS100-certified mailers are significantly or ecologically superior to our standard 100% recycled poly mailers.

We see the most essential criteria in our product development to be boosting circularity by:

  • Using maximum amounts of recycled content, with an emphasis on maximum levels of post-consumer waste
  • Manufacturing with domestic recycled content, fueling local investments in recycling, sorting, and remanufacturing
  • Designing for ready recyclability
  • Catalyzing the market adoption of novel, regenerative, low/negative carbon materials

Brands considering our RCS100-certified poly mailer versus our standard 100% recycled poly mailer should feel confident that either option is a significant sustainability step forward.

While our RCS100-certified poly mailers use slightly more post-consumer waste and recycled content overall than our standard 100% recycled poly mailers, both are produced domestically, are thin film recyclable, and use very high levels of recycled content and locally derived post-consumer waste.

The production and use of the lower additives in the RCS100-certified poly mailers may lead to slightly more waste in the manufacturing and converting process - offsetting the benefits of the slight increase in its higher recycled content. Read more in the next section about how various additive levels impact film quality and, consequently, speed, waste, and efficiency during manufacturing.

RCS100-certified mailers offer a third-party verification by the Textile Exchange - a reputable leader in supply chain sustainability - which is not the case for our standard poly mailers. We’ve also found that many brands prefer using packaging materials certified to the same standards as their products. The Textile Exchange’s schemes (RCS and GRS) are ideal for apparel brands.

Additionally, as we continue to see packaging regulations passed, many brands seek third-party verification across their entire supply chain. Leaning on certified packaging is one way to reduce the risk and workload involved in auditing manufacturing partners.

What are additives? Are they problematic?

To make a poly mailer, first, you must create a custom plastic blend, extrude it into film, and then convert it into individual mailers.

In addition to the plastic resin, other components help make a poly mailer a functional product. Some of these “ingredients” are visible,– like sealing strips, release liners, printing ink, and adhesives.

Other less-obvious ingredients are also present in the mailer’s makeup, included during the creation of custom film blends and broadly called additives. Additives are synthetic materials that add functional and aesthetic improvements to the film. Common additives in LDPE plastic films include colorants, TiO2 to improve color and opacity, anti-blocking agents, and anti-static additions. These additives are essential to successfully extruding films, effectively converting them, and yielding a film with solid, strong print quality, flexibility, and more.

making a custom plastic film blend
extruding plastic film blend into film
converting film into a poly mailer

An RCS100-certified poly mailer is one whose film has, at the maximum, 5% additives by weight - meaning the amount of functional resin in the film is 95% by weight.

Across the market, other (non-RCS100 certified) 100% recycled film blends typically have additives that represent up to and even over 20% of the weight of the finished film. Therefore, while the percent of recycled content in the functional plastic can stay the same between two film blends, the amount of additives can differ significantly depending on the engineering of each.

We typically want to reduce “additives” in food or personal care products, but additives aren’t problematic in the same way when it comes to film! Additives help brands make bags more functional and usable. They ensure extruding, printing, and converting equipment can operate efficiently and smoothly. They can reduce waste across the manufacturing process.

On the other hand, in some instances, high levels of additives could lead to such an increase in the density of film that the material may no longer be able to pass a float-sink test (meaning it may not be able to be recycled back into a plastic film). This is not the case with our standard poly mailers, which were validated as recyclable by NexTrex and How2Recycle.

Because of the various functional benefits of additives, restricting them to no more than 5% of the film’s weight can be challenging. We are proud of the RCS100-certified mailers we’ve developed. They are highly functional and will work beautifully for most brands. However, we also recognize that the reduced additives have led to a mailer with more aesthetic inconsistencies and coloring that may not meet all brands’ aesthetic needs or standards.

Measuring recycled content with mass balance and functional material.

The most commonplace method of measuring recycled content is the functional material method.

Over the past decade, recycled content and post-consumer waste have become a critical input for boosting product circularity and an important sustainability metric.

Recycled content labeling has generally been based on the recycled content of a product's primary material—the “functional material.”

This is still how most recycled content labeling is measured and communicated.

For example, suppose the plastic resin used to make a poly mailer has 100% recycled content. In that case, the mailer is generally labeled as “100% Recycled” despite the additives, adhesives, and ink added to the film and final product, which may not be made from recycled content.

The same is true for a corrugated shipping box: the paper fibers can be 100% recycled content, while the bonding agents, inks, adhesives, and other additions that create the finished product are not. However, we (and many certification schemes, including FSC) would still consider and label this as a 100% recycled box.

When you see “100% Recycled” today, this labeling almost always refers to the level of recycled content in the functional base material that makes up the product. This broad recycled content percentage can comprise post-consumer waste (PCW/PCR), post-industrial waste (PIW, also called pre-consumer waste), or both.

A note on the FTC Green Guides:

The FTC Green Guides have historically allowed for unqualified claims related to recycled content and recyclability, stating that “incidental additions” do not have to be factored into recycled content claims. This has generally been left to interpretation, leading brands and packaging providers to use the functional material approach described above.

Some certification schemes take a different approach, which we’ll refer to as mass balance.

While the functional material approach focuses on the amount of recycled content in a product's primary substrate, the mass balance approach includes all manufacturing additives to measure the overall recycled content percentage.

Mass balance calculations are completed by:

  1. Measuring the total weight of all of the inputs (A)
  2. Measuring the total weight of recycled content among all inputs (B)
  3. Dividing the total recycled content by the total weight of manufactured material
    1. (B/A)*100 = mass balance total recycled content

Note: certifications that use the mass balance approach do not consider additional components added to the product during and after the material is converted into a package, such as adhesives, printing inks, or sealing strips. Given the increased scrutiny in this space, this may change over time.

How certifications consider mass balance for packaging.

First, a certifying body calculates and audits mass balance (like SCS Global Services, Control Union, Bureau Veritas, etc.).

Next, based on these calculations, different certification schemes (like RCS, GRS, SCS-Recycled, FSC®, etc.) take slightly different approaches to factoring in and considering additives as part of the overall recycled content percentage.

Here are some examples:

Scheme Owner Certification Scheme Approach to Recycled Content
FSC® Recycled
Recycled content of functional material only (paper fiber inputs). Bonding agents and other additions during the paper pulping process are not considered.
Textile Exchange
Mass balance recycled content levels are above 95%. This means that any packaging with RCS100 printed on the packaging itself can have up to 5% of the material be made from virgin content - such as additives, etc.
Textile Exchange
RCS Blend
Mass balance recycled content levels are below 95%.
SCS Global Services
SCS Recycled Content Certification: 100%
Mass balance recycled content levels are at or above 99.5%.
SCS Global Services
SCS Recycled Content Certification (General)
Mass balance recycled content levels are between 5 - 99.5%.

Why RCS Certification and not GRS Certification?

RCS is similar to another certification standard created by Textile Exchange, called GRS (Global Recycled Standard), but these two schemes are slightly different in what they measure.
According to the Textile Exchange, “The RCS and GRS are the same, except that the GRS is a more rigorous standard. In the GRS, there is a higher minimum content percentage (50%) and additional processing requirements (social, environmental, and chemical) that have to be met.”
However, one downfall of the GRS certification standard is that there is no differentiation in labeling between levels of recycled content, the same way there is for RCS100 and RCS Blend.
The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) was developed for factories serving the apparel industry, many of which are overseas and have unethical labor standards. GRS was implemented to help brands audit and verify their overseas factories' recycled content and workplace conditions.
EcoEnclose chose to focus on RCS100 for the time being because these mailers are manufactured in the United States at plants and operations we visit regularly. Because of this, our focus with this on-package certification labeling was on recycled content rather than labor conditions.

The Future of Poly Mailers at EcoEnclose

Will EcoEnclose always offer RCS100-certified poly mailers and standard 100% recycled poly mailers?
The short answer is: we don’t know.
For the time being, we are proud to offer two different options to our customers so brands can choose which is right for them based on their priorities regarding certification, cost, and aesthetics.
We’re eager to get feedback from customers and brands like you who transition the RCS100-certified mailers to understand how they perform and meet your packaging, sustainability, and aesthetic goals.
We also recognize how important eco-friendly packaging is in being as cost-effective as possible. Lowering the additives in a film has implications for extrusion, conversion, and printing efficiency, so the resulting material can be costlier than a higher-additive film blend.
Finally, we also see that limiting additives could lead to negative circularity consequences.
For example, an RCS100-certified mailer could have texture and color superior to our current offering by replacing all recycled content with pre-consumer inputs instead of post-consumer. This is an easy way to achieve certification and more consistent aesthetics, but it would be a step backward from a sustainability and circularity perspective.
Risks like this lead us to recognize the importance of offering two options - one focusing on third-party verification and one emphasizing meeting higher aesthetic and performance expectations while still using high levels of post-consumer waste.

Shop EcoEnclose Poly Mailers

Whether you choose our standard 100% recycled poly mailers or our RCS100-certified poly mailers, feel confident that you're making a step forward in your sustainable packaging journey.

ivory and gray 100% recycled poly mailers

Poly Mailers

Thin-film recyclable, tear strip for easy opening, and a second adhesive strip for reuse. 100% recycled, 50% post-consumer waste.

Available in 8 sizes and 2 colors

Ready to ship  |  Min. 100 units
Customizable  |  Min. 500 units

rcs100 poly mailers

RCS100 Poly Mailers

RCS100-certified mailer with on-package third-party certification of recycled content. 100% recycled, 56% post-consumer waste.

Available in 8 sizes and 1 color

Ready to ship  |  Min. 100 units

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