Pre-Consumer vs Post-Industrial Plastic Waste: Are They the Same Thing?

Operators in the recycling industry use a variety of terms to classify different types of plastics. For example, we might talk about pre-consumer and post-industrial waste as a means of distinguishing between two types of plastic waste. Outside of our industry, these two classification terms are often used interchangeably despite being distinctly different.


In short, pre-consumer and post-industrial waste are two separate things. Their differences may be considered minor, but they are important to companies that recycle industrial plastic waste. That is what we do here at Seraphim Plastics.


What is pre-consumer waste?


In the plastics game, pre-consumer waste is that collection of plastic products that was intended to be used by consumers but never got that far. Imagine a manufacturer producing a run of plastic food containers originally destined for a company that makes crackers. Each container that comes off the line is considered a pre-consumer item. It is destined to eventually end up in the hands of a consumer.


Now imagine that a flaw in the production process ruins the entire run. Those flawed containers cannot be sold to the cracker company. They have to be discarded. That is what makes them pre-consumer waste. The containers were intended for consumer use but never made it past initial manufacturing.


What is post-industrial waste?


Post-industrial plastic waste can be divided into multiple categories. First off is the industrial equivalent of consumer waste. This category would consist of industrial plastics that were manufactured, sold, and used by buyers until their end of life. A good example is the plastic pallet. By their nature, pallets are industrial items. They become waste once they reach the end of life.


A second type of post-industrial waste is waste generated by some sort of industrial process. We see this sort of waste generated by companies that manufacture plastic products.


Manufacturing with plastics often involves injection molding or extrusion. Both processes generate waste in two ways. First, every part that comes out of an injection mold machine has excess that must be trimmed away. The same goes for extruded products. As for the machinery that produces said products, it has to be purged on a regular basis. Purging produces even more plastic waste.


Can both types of plastic waste be recycled?


It is not necessarily a given that pre-consumer and post-industrial waste has to be sent to a landfill. In many cases, it can be recycled. Here at Seraphim Plastics, we focus on industrial plastic waste. Because it is already clean and separated when we pick it up from the customer, we can recycle it cheaply enough to make doing so economically viable. That’s the case for most post-industrial plastic waste.


Pre-consumer waste can be recycled too, though it might be more difficult in some cases. At issue are a number of things including market demand, plastic contamination, and the availability of recycling partners willing to accept the waste. When all things work out, pre-consumer waste can be recycled and sent back into the plastic stream.


Can every company recycle plastic waste?


In closing, let us talk about your company and its plastic waste. In theory, every company can recycle. But as a practical matter, it is not that easy. Your company might have industrial plastic waste we are interested in buying. The only way to know for sure is to get in touch with us. Tell us what you have and where you are located. We will let you know if we can take the plastic waste off your hands. If we cannot, there may be another company that can.