Circular Economy, Sustainability, Recycling, Engagement

Circular Economy: Requirements and targets

19/08/2021 | 3 min read
Charlotte Enzelsberger

Greiner Packaging’s first virtual Innovation Days examined the challenges faced in establishing a circular economy for packaging. Considering goals, targets and legal requirements, we here look at two sessions: a panel discussion which asked the question “how can businesses achieve the sustainability targets they choose to adopt?”; plus a review of the current EU legislative environment.

The conclusion from these sessions is that all parties along the value chain need to cooperate to implement a global circular economy, while legislation has an important role to play, and the industry is able to influence it and take a leading role in shaping the future.

How to achieve the circular economy targets

On the first day of the Innovation Days Greiner Packaging CEO Manfred Stanek was joined by Dannielle Borger, head of packaging sustainability for laundry and home care at Henkel, and Gilonne Traub, network manager at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, for a panel discussion

Gilonne Traub outlined the principles of the circular economy: designing out waste and pollution; keeping products and materials in use; and regenerating natural systems. She detailed how the current system is hugely wasteful.

With the existing linear model, one third of plastic packaging ends up in the environment. While the recycling symbol has been around for well over 40 years, only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, with less than 2% going back into plastic packaging.

Gilonne Traub, network manager at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

She then explained the vision of the New Plastics Economy: to eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastic packaging; innovate to ensure that the plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable or compostable; and circulate all the plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.

Manfred Stanek discussed Greiner Packaging’s commitment, that by 2025 all its packaging will be 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable, and use as much recycled content as possible. 

“We believe these goals are ambitious, but realistic if we work together as an industry. That is another reason why I really value this two-day event as we experience a great opportunity here for exchange along the value chain,” he said, emphasizing that the company will focus strongly on the 'reduce, recycle and reuse’ principles as well as using a diverse range of materials and ensuring all products are designed for recycling. 

Dannielle Borger presented Henkel’s progress towards a circular economy. Its strategy is to close the loop through including materials made from sustainable source and using smart design, with the ambition: for all packaging to be 100% recyclable or usable; to cut fossil plastics by 50%; and achieve zero waste.

“This ‘100, 50, zero’  philosophy can be seen in our ‘treasure box’  which we developed with Greiner Packaging,” she said. “The K3® cardboard-plastic combination box for Persil washing capsules features a reduced weight plastic tub – made from 50% recycled plastic – with an easily  removable cardboard wrap. We are currently working on incorporating recycled material into the lid, demonstrating that this is a continuous journey of improvement.”


Watch the full panel discussion here!

Please note: In order to watch the live session you need to login (and register) first; registration is still possible, even though the event is over.

The EU legislative environment

Gain valuable insights on the legal situation for packaging in the EU provided by an expert from the European Commission.

The EU legislative environment

In another session, David Buhé, an expert on packaging waste at the European Commission, gave an overview of the legal situation for packaging in the EU and highlighted the approaches that could help to boost the sustainability of packaging solutions in the future. 

“The aim of the Packaging & Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD 94/62/EC) is to make all packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030, and the aim of the EU Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) is to enable us to move from our existing linear economy to a fully circular economy. This is why we look at the entire life cycle of products and materials, from production to consumption, to waste management. We are reviewing the directive to develop a legal proposal that will link design, to end of life of packaging.”

“The CEAP focuses on waste prevention and eco-design to improve the circularity of packaging – which needs to be designed for recycling, made from secondary materials, and take the end of life of the packaging into account. The European Green Deal is the plan to make European economies sustainable and to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.”

“The 2018 revision to the PPWD sets ambitious recycling targets for all packaging: 65% by 2025; and 70% by 2030; and also sets a framework for mandatory extended producer responsibility (EPR), meaning that producers take responsibility for waste management. Work is underway to establish a definition for ‘recyclable packaging’ which is likely to be aligned to ‘design for recycling’. We are also considering other measures for better harmonization, including possible rules on separate waste collection and deposit return schemes.”

“We need harmonized rules for packaging to allow goods to move freely in the common markets,  and harmonization of some aspects of the separate waste collection system in Europe will be key. We cannot have recycling and recycled content without first having the systems that collect waste materials to be recycled. But we face difficulties with inadequate collection systems. Even if the packaging format is perfectly recyclable, if it is collected alongside other waste, it could be contaminated – requiring further sorting or treatment, increasing costs.”

We are still in the impact assessment phase of the review process, and the public consultation concluded in January with almost 500 inputs, and more than 70 position papers.

David Buhé, an expert on packaging waste at the European Commission

“It is clear that a collective effort is necessary. The Commission understands the need for legal certainty and long term vision in the industry, because it is necessary to have a clear view of the future to make investments. We know that adapting production processes to switch to other technologies is challenging, but also that there is a strong expectation of European citizens. So we have a role to play in providing a response, both with appropriate regulation, and with innovation and adaptation of production models. “

“Our goal is to first eliminate the packaging we don't need, and then to innovate, so that all of the packaging we need is reusable, recyclable or compostable. Finally, I will say that industry has been making efforts in research and development, and with voluntary commitments. Innovation is happening across all sectors and all packaging materials. The results are promising, but it is important that all this work is not offset by the growth of packaging or by an idea that improving recycling performance is enough.”


Watch full live session with David Buhé here!

Please note: In order to watch the live session you need to login (and register) first; registration is still possible, even though the event is over.


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