Case Study

Circular Transforms PCR Sourcing for Global Brands Across Industries

The $600B plastic industry is undergoing unprecedented change. As brands, fueled by pending EPRs and consumer demand, transition to more sustainable materials, the recycled plastic industry is expected to grow at double the rate of virgin plastic. The public commitments to sustainability that most global brands have made are a leading indicator of this growth. However, almost all are missing their targets. At, we believe that a lack of data and transparency are the root causes of their challenges: inaccessible materials, high and volatile prices and variable quality.

Using proprietary technology, we have aggregated and standardized data from more than 50,000 technical records across the globe. Empowered with information about what is available in the market, who to buy from and at what price, brands can make the shift to sustainability faster and more effectively than ever before.

In the 6 months since we launched our product, Circular has sourced 35,000 metric tons of rPET, rPP, rHDPE, and rLDPE at an average of 12% savings versus market indices. These results are consistent regardless of material, geography or application. Further, procurement teams and suppliers enjoy dramatically reduced timelines to production, as workflow tools take the end to end process from months (if not years), to weeks.

“Circular was able to do in four weeks what took us 2 years to accomplish…at a lower price.”
Strategy Manager, Global Food & Beverage Company

The problem

In conversations with hundreds of brands, we hear about the same challenges in achieving sustainability goals on repeat: PCR is inaccessible, prices are high and volatile and quality is variable. Diving a bit deeper, it is clear that high fragmentation in the PCR market means that finding supply that meets a buyer’s specifications is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Meanwhile, accurate pricing data is nonexistent so buyers (and suppliers) experience highly volatile prices, usually at a premium to virgin. Lastly, poor communication and transparency during the testing process means that success is found through time-consuming trial and error. Add all this up and the result is sourcing inefficiency, production risk and margin erosion. 

Underlying these symptoms is a lack of data and transparency. A strategy or sustainability team trying to determine which products in a company’s portfolio to shift to PCR is faced with a lack of information about what is practically feasible in the market. Similarly, a procurement team tasked with sourcing material at a certain performance specification lacks information about who sells it and what is true market price. In the face of all this uncertainty, it’s no wonder that voluntary sustainability goals haven’t been more effective. 

The solution

Enter Circular. Our proprietary technology leverages AI to aggregate and standardize data from over 50,000 technical records. From there, we’ve developed tools that allow buyers to query that data to answer questions like: Which European PCR suppliers sell clear rPET with an intrinsic viscosity higher than 0.7 dL/g? What price can I expect to pay for that material? Armed with this information, buyers can be both comprehensive and targeted in their search, driving efficiency while reducing risk and cost.

Further, our workflow tools allow buyers and suppliers to interact with transparent communications. We connect buyers and suppliers directly with clear documentation on sampling, contract negotiations, freight, logistics and then provide reporting on the avoided carbon emissions. This efficiency drives down the implicit cost of PCR procurement and makes sustainability a more economically viable option. 

Breakdown of searches by big brands using Circular

#1 US food & beverage company finds 9% savings for rPET in SE Asia in weeks not years 

A private food and beverage company based in the US has already converted their rPET water bottles to 100% recycled plastic domestically. As a global company, they came to us looking for supplier options close to their manufacturing facilities in Oceania that meet their aesthetic requirements and ensure they remain cost effective.

We leveraged technical data on the hundreds of rPET suppliers in Asia and Oceania to instantly narrow the pool of potential suppliers. Within days, we had distributed a digital RFQ and engaged only the most relevant suppliers to vet them across multiple dimensions including price, logistical complexity, brand fit (in this case, required certifications and potential to grow with the brand), carbon emissions avoided, and material performance. In the end, we presented 5 prioritized supplier options that represented an average of 9% savings vs. market indices. 

In addition to cost savings, the search was completed in a fraction of the time it would have taken internally. The Circular search took 4 weeks, while the company informed us that their rPET program had taken 2 years to build. The bulk of that time had been spent in vetting the suppliers and materials through trial and error sampling.

#2 Large European consumer goods manufacturer finds rPP supply options that add resilience to their supply chain

One of the world’s largest and most sustainable manufacturers uses millions of tons of plastic annually and is actively expanding the use of PCR in its product portfolio. One of the struggles they face in meeting this goal is building a reliable PCR supply chain. To avoid disruption to production due to potential bad batches or supply chain issues, they need contingent suppliers and the ability to shift volume quickly as needed. But, with a 77 point compliance checklist, finding suppliers that meet both performance requirements for the intended application that also meet their compliance requirements is challenging.

Circular conducted a search for 8,000 mt of rPP in Europe, near the company’s Poland manufacturing plants.. Leveraging our database, we identified 800+ potential suppliers. After a full vetting including the  77 point compliance requirements, we identified 17 new suppliers to be added to their supply chain. In addition, our recommended option presented them with >$1M of savings on a $7M buy (at rPP market price).  The search was completed in 4 weeks.

Of note, given the volume of rPP that this company procures, we were able to secure a feedstock deal that sourced bales from Asia and tolled them for processing. While feedstock deals certainly add logistical complexity, this option gave the company more flexibility in their supply chain as well as lower prices and greater control over quality. 

#3 Global food & beverage company finds efficiency gains and cost savings on food grade rPET in North America

A global food and beverage company, has committed to reducing their usage of virgin plastic in their packaging by ⅓ by 2025. While they have made progress toward their goal, they are actively looking for ways to reduce cost and drive efficiency in their PCR procurement processes. conducted a search in North America for food grade rPET for packaging for a dairy product. Within just 4 weeks, the company had 17 new, vetted supplier options that met their material product requirements. Our proposal saved them $1M on a $5M buy (food grade rPET market price). Their incumbent process leveraged excel spreadsheets and was largely dependent on pre-existing supplier relationships. So, while the project yielded significant savings, the efficiency gains that our workflow tools and data-powered search presented were equally as meaningful to the team. 

Conclusion’s database covers all geographies and materials with KPIs that meet the performance requirements for a range of applications. Our software also offers a suite of workflow and analytic tools that support a company’s sustainability journey from strategy to procurement to supply chain management. For more information, contact us at