What is the best way to deal with material rejections?

When you’re in the plastic scrap recycling and trading business, material rejections are an unfortunate cost of doing business that occasionally comes up. If a plastic scrap buyer feels that the quality of plastic scrap material is not measuring up to what was promised, the buyer often has the right to reject the material and send it back to the seller or even worse, a landfill.

Obviously, plastic scrap material rejections incur big costs and inconveniences for both sides of the transaction, so it’s best to try to find a resolution that suits everyone’s needs.

The best way to deal with plastic scrap material rejections is to collect as much specific information as possible about the order so you can find out what the divergence was between what was promised and what was delivered.

Some things to check on include:

  • Get photos of rejected material: Do this first because it’s the simplest step. Why is the buyer rejecting the material? Was it the wrong color, the wrong type of plastic or was the material contaminated, etc.? If an order is seriously different from what the buyer expected, there should be clear photo evidence to that effect. Get loading photos. Even if it’s for a domestic order, we request loading photos for every single load we ship, domestic or export, to protect all parties involved. It’s also important to get photos of the rejected load in the truck or with visible markings that can identify your load.
  • Get hand samples of the rejected material: This is more important when the rejected scrap plastic material has technical specs that have not been met. It helps to be able to see the material firsthand so you can physically touch and inspect it.
  • Try to find a solution that works for all parties: As the seller, once you have seen the scope of the problem, you can calculate a discount or make-good arrangement that suits your customer’s needs. It’s possible that your deal can still be profitable or at minimum at break even. Making zero profit is always better than a big loss. Ideally, just as the original deal was constructed, it must be good for all parties. Be fair to your customer and make sure you work to keep your name and account in good standing.
  • Follow the proper timeline: Rejecting material multiple days or weeks after delivery creates big issues for both the buyer and seller. You might try to add some language to your standard contract specifying a limitation on the amount of time that can pass before a customer can claim to reject the material. Also, if the material changes form you should not be held liable for rejections at that point. For example, if you sell baled PET post consumer plastic bottles and it is washed and flaked you should not be held responsible for a rejection of the flake. The material form has been changed and you cannot be held responsible for another company’s machinery or process.
  • Maintain a proper chain of custody: At every step of the deal, you need to know who has possession of the scrap plastic, who is shipping it, and what the conditions are. If any of your end users or trading counterparties are contributing to unfavorable conditions for material storage or shipment, you might need to reconsider the deal regardless of the profit involved. Your reputation in this industry is everything. One or two bad loads can really complicate business long term.
  • Explain the expectations of the material well ahead of delivery: The best way to deal with material rejections is to avoid them altogether. When buying plastic scrap, people need to understand that the quality will vary and that they shouldn’t expect absolutely perfect, uniform bales of pristine, identical scrap plastic materials. Buying plastic scrap is not like buying a MacBook computer or iPad – these things are manufactured en masse to be the same each and every time, while a load of plastic scrap contains many thousands of individual pieces that have many variables and chances for error. There are bound to be a few imperfections in every order of scrap plastic. It is up to you to do your homework and your research prior to even presenting the material to anyone.

We always try to work with honest, reputable scrap plastic trading partners and build long-term business relationships based on mutual trust, but there are always chances for inconsistencies, miscommunications and misunderstandings. Just like any other business, scrap plastic traders have to manage the details and stay tuned in to every aspect of the deal.

Be honest, work quickly and efficiently to satisfy everyone’s needs, including your own. A deal only works if it is good for all parties involved. But even if there are issues with your latest plastic scrap shipment, chances are the deal can still be salvaged.