Design for recycling is part of circular product design and represents an important basis for holistic sustainability assessment. Accordingly, circularity means that the packaging is designed in such a way that the highest possible recycling of the materials in use can be achieved. The goals here are resource conservation, the longest possible service life, material-identical recycling (closed-loop recycling) or the use of renewable materials. Circular packaging should therefore be designed and manufactured in such a way that it can be reused (reusable solution) and/or that the raw materials used can be reused to a large extent as secondary raw materials after the use phase (recycling) and/or consist of renewable raw materials.
In order to be able to apply recyclable packaging design, a certain fundamental knowledge of sorting and recycling processes is necessary. Packaging must, therefore, be suitable for state-of-the-art sorting and recycling processes in addition to its basic functions (for example, storage, transport, product protection, product presentation and convenience).
The ‘Packaging Design for Recycling Guide’ is a starting point to understand Best Practice examples using state-of-the-art technology that can then be applied and tailored to suit the recovery and recyclability capabilities and infrastructure on a regional and local level. The guide can be applied to products from the Food, Near-Food and Non-Food segments and is applicable to all primary, secondary and tertiary packaging; provided that product-specific regulations of the packaging system are observed.
According to Declan Carolan, Co-Chair, ECR Community, “We are delighted to support the publication of these global recommendations for circular packaging design for recycling. This guide aims to promote knowledge development within the retail and Consumer Product Group (CPG) sector as companies transition to new packaging designs that help to minimise their environmental impact, while ensuring packaging remains fit for purpose and continues to look good. We recognise both the challenges and opportunities that the transition to a circular economy will bring and understand that circular packaging and supporting recycling systems are a crucial step in this process.”
He adds, “As retailers and manufacturers start to publicly commit to significantly reducing their plastic packaging over the coming years, these recommendations should help to guide the conversation. The use of a straightforward traffic light system with colour coding, makes it easy to read and understand for all senior executives. Getting buy in from across the business and from those in your supply chain is essential when making such changes.”
Nerida Kelton, WPO Vice President Sustainability & Save Food, adds, ‘Some months ago, when the WPO had the idea to develop an international Circular Packaging Design Guide the project seemed an impossible pipe dream. As we proudly release the first component of this guide to the world, the WPO has shown that a dream can become a reality. This resource was simply not possible without our wonderful collaborative partners who worked alongside the WPO at every stage of the project. The WPO sees this new resource as the first step to developing a consistent global notion of Circular Design Thinking for materials and Packaging. The next step is to encourage all of our 53 Member countries to not only use the tool but also work with the WPO to develop more localised versions that suit their countries and regions. This is the only way to provide better quality of life, through better packaging, for more people globally.”
Ernst Krottendorfer, Co-Managing Partner, Circular Analytics, who was one of the key developers of this international guide, says, “This guideline is just the first step towards a common global understanding and harmonisation of circular packaging design. Further steps will follow to either establish, or improve, harmonised collection and sorting flows for packaging in many countries through the partnership with the WPO Member countries and ECR community members. This new global guide is a successful solution that was born from international collaborative efforts between the packaging, consumer products and retail sectors. We are proud that we, as Packforce Austria, are contributing to the creation and further development of this guideline.”
The guideline will be continuously updated and adapted to changes in collection, sorting and recycling technology, as well as to future material developments – it can be downloaded here.