The UL Component Recognition program for recycled plastics evaluates plastic compounds that use post-consumer or post-industrial content for compliance to UL 746D, Polymeric Materials, Fabricated Parts. Compliance with the Recycled Plastics program per UL 746D is accomplished through rigorous testing resulting in the same level of acceptability as a virgin compound.

This testing makes it possible to assign to a recycle plastic the same ratings that a virgin resin can be assigned for the same product category, QMFZ2.  This testing also allows for a recycle plastic to be substituted for a virgin plastic in end-use applications in compliance with UL 746C, Polymeric Materials, Use in Electrical Equipment Evaluations and within the design limitations of the specific end-product standards.

Customers that meet UL’s requirements will be published on UL’s Certification Directories, including UL Prospector, and the plastic description can include the term recycled (e.g. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) – Recycled, Furnished as pellets).

Certification Process

The Certification Process for Recycled Plastics includes three parts: Initial Certification, Quality Assurance (QA) Program, and Follow-Up Services.

The Initial Certification of Multiple batches is tested for compliance to requirements described in UL 746D. There are two paths for evaluating a recycled plastic and each defines the number of batches that are needed to evaluate consistency in the recycled plastics stream.

Path 1:  Recycled Plastics with Consistent Identification

  • This is typically for post-industrial regrinds that are traded between different companies and, as a result, traceability is compromised.
  • 3 batches are required with the following properties tested:
    • IR – Infrared Analysis
    • TGA – Thermogravimetric Analysis
    • DSC – Differential Scanning Calorimetry
    • Flammability
      • The results of these tests are to be consistent per criteria in UL 746D
  • 1 batch is required for additional short-term properties (i.e., HAI, HWI, CTI, etc.)
  • 1 batch is required for additional colors
  • 1 batch is required to determine an Elevated Relative Thermal Index (RTI) through LTTA
  • A generic RTI can be assigned based on a positive IR comparison to a generic plastic

Path 2: Recycled Plastics without Consistent Identification

  • This is typically for post-consumer plastics that have been used in consumer products that are considered waste. The plastic in these products is recovered and reprocessed to be re-used again in consumer products.
  • 5 batches are required with the following properties tested:
    • Flammability
    • Impact Strength
    • Tensile Strength
    • Heat Deflection Temperature
    • Dielectric Strength
    • Hot Wire Ignition (HWI) or Glow Wire Ignition (GWI)
  • 1 batch is required for Infrared Analysis (IR)
  • 1 batch is required for additional short-term properties (i.e., HAI, HWI, CTI, etc.)
  • 1 batch is required for additional colors
  • 1 batch is required to determine an Elevated Relative Thermal Index (RTI) through LTTA
  • A generic RTI can be assigned based on a positive IR comparison to a generic plastic

Customers are encouraged to contact UL to learn more about which path is required for their specific testing.

The Quality Assurance (QA) Program involves establishing the traceability of plastic sources. Traceability is a very important part of producing a high quality, safe, reliable recycled plastic because this program ensures that the manufacturer is maintaining good control of their many plastic sources.

In order to complete UL Recognition, a recycled plastic manufacturer must have a registered Quality Management System that is compliant with ISO 9001 or an equivalent internationally recognized standard.

In the QA program, a number of tests can be conducted as indicated in UL 746D; however, the following tests are required based on the flammability rating as indicated below:

UL 94 Rating  QA Test Programs 
HB Impact plus one additional test from UL 746D, 10.4.4
V-2, VTM-2 or better Impact plus UL 94 flammability, or Impact plus two additional tests from UL 746D, 10.4.4

These tests must be conducted on an ongoing base as deemed required by the Quality Management System. During Follow-Up Inspection visits, the inspector will review records for compliance with these test methods.

Follow-Up Services verify compliance with safety requirements through regular manufacturing visits and sample selection with testing as the material is being produced on an ongoing basis

Regrind versus post-industrial recycle content

Regrind as defined by UL 746D specifically refers to reclaimed scrap from molding, such as sprues or runners that are re-used in-house at a molding facility. Regrind that fits this definition can be re-introduced into the molding hopper to comprise up to 25% where the rest of the 75% is comprised of the same virgin grade that was used to mold the parts where the regrind came from. It is also possible for this type of regrind to be considered a source of recycled plastics even if it does not match the basic definition. In other words, regrind that is collected and packaged for shipment to a different molder becomes a source of post-industrial recycled plastics. This occurs because the traceability of the regrind is compromised when it leaves the molder and an evaluation is necessary to verify this regrind (or post-industrial recycled plastic) is consistent when molded by a different molder.

Recycled Content Validation

Although UL’s Component Recognition of Recycled Plastics program will ensure that the material tested meets UL’s stringent safety performance requirements, it does not validate for the type of recycled content used or the percentage used; however, UL Environment can help with this validation. UL’s Environmental Claim Validation program will validate the post-consumer, pre-consumer (post-industrial), or total recycled content of a product by means of auditing.