Design for Recycling, Sustainability, Circular Economy

Design, Innovation, and Circular Economy

10/08/2021 | 3 min read
Stefan Ebli

For packaging, design for recycling is key to make a circular economy become a reality. Two sessions during Greiner Packaging’s virtual Innovation Days focused on developments essential for developing truly circular packaging and introduced a wide variety of packaging innovations. 

We go circular! Do you?

On the second Innovation Day, Paolo Glerean, Chair of RecyClass, and Vincent Mooij, director of SUEZ.circpack, were joined by Jens Krause, sales director and K3® category manager at Greiner Packaging, to discuss circularity and talk about the packaging design requirements that have to be fulfilled to establish the ideal conditions for a closed loop.

RecyClass assesses, improves and endorses the recyclability and recycled content in plastic packaging, and also tracks the recycled content in plastic applications. To define recyclability, RecyClass use these four points:

  1. the product must be made with plastic that is collected for recycling, has market value and/or is supported by a legislatively mandated program
  2. the product must be sorted & aggregated into defined streams for recycling processes;
  3. the product can be processed & reclaimed/recycled with commercial recycling processes
  4. the recycled plastic becomes a raw material that is used in the production of new products.

“Of course, this is possible only if the supply chain exists,” said Paolo Glerean, before going on to explain the structure of RecyClass including its members and supporters. He then introduced the Recyclass online tool – which can be used at no cost – and assesses the recyclability of specific products and provides an evaluation rating.

Innovations are first evaluated through lab testing where innovative solutions on plastic packaging are tested versus control material using scientific-based protocols simulating on lab scale a real recycling process.The comparison of properties between innovation and control material can determine if that specific innovation is fully, limited compatible or not compatible at all with recycling. This result will fuel the Design for Recycling guidelines which are then transported into the tool to assess the overall recyclability of a finished package. Finally, self-assessment supported by the RecyClass team, results in a RecyClass certification for the final product.

Vincent Mooij then introduced the work of SUEZ.circpack, which supports brand owners, packaging companies and retailers in their quest for circular packaging.

“The sorting of packaging waste is quite an intensive process,” said Vincent Mooij. “Material passes through eight standard steps to be sorted. It is important to understand the issues for each stage.” He then went through a variety of typical issues which create problems in sorting, including dark colors, full sleeves and large labels, which make near-infrared (NIR) detection difficult.

“We are often asked about biodegradable materials, such a PLA and PHA which is currently not being sorted for recycling,” said Vincent Mooij. “The technology is available, and could be installed, but it is not being used due to the limited volumes, so these materials will not be recycled. Beyond challenges in sorting, there are also challenges in reprocessing, from contamination to multi-materials, the presence of metal components or silicone and more.

All this reminds us of the importance of design for recycling.

Vincent Mooij, director of SUEZ.circpack

Packaging Design Requirements

Learn more about Design for Recycling and ideal conditions for a closed loop.

K3® – designed for recycling

Jens Krause then discussed the recyclability benefits of Greiner Packaging’s K3® cardboard-plastic combination. The plastic cup is lightweight and unprinted, making it easily recyclable, and it can be made from recycled materials. The cardboard outer wrap – which can also be made from recycled materials – can be easily separated from the plastic cup to enable recycling.

K3® now features a new tear-tab solution, which was introduced to make separation of the cardboard wrap even easier. However, consumers still play an important role in the separation process – meaning it does not always take place. 

“For packaging that is not separated by the consumer, we have found a solution that allows separation of the cardboard before the cups enter sorting facilities,” said Jens Krause. “This new solution ensures that the cardboard will separate itself from the plastic cup during the collection process, before entering the sorting facility, significantly increasing recycling rates. We will bring this breakthrough to the market as soon as possible.” 


Watch the full live session 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.

Design and Innovation: delivering the future of packaging

In a session during the second Innovation Day, Stefan Ebli, head of design and prototyping services (DesPro) at Greiner Packaging, presented some exciting design concepts.

“The requirements for packaging have changed very much in recent years, particularly around sustainability,” said Stefan Ebli. “It often seems to be a great challenge to reconcile sustainability with various trends, such as convenience, premiumization, on-the-go, and point of sale differentiation.”

Can we respond to those trends, and at the same time save material, use recycled materials, improve recyclability, and reduce CO2 emissions? The answer is clear. Yes, it is possible. I will show you what is possible, and which trends we are following.

Stefan Ebli, head of design and prototyping services (DesPro) at Greiner Packaging

Stefan Ebli began with the trend to convenience and on-the-go, where the challenges are: improved usability; easy opening; reclosability; and less steps to enjoyment.  Several design concepts serving this trend were presented.

Differentiation and premiumization was the next trend. “To be unique, you want your packaging to stand out from the crowd and be remembered for a longer time,” said Stefan Ebli. He showed a number of techniques to produce textures, such as embossing, to deliver a tactile experience for consumers, before moving on to focus on the advantages of Greiner Packaging’s K3® cardboard-plastic combination packaging solution.

The trend of customer protection focused on optimal hygienic protection and insulation, including the use of shaped structures to create a gap between the cup and the outer cardboard wrap on a K3® pack for ready-to-eat meals. Looking at the need for high-transparency to highlight fresh products, concepts were shown made from PET or r-PET which had the appearance of glass.

The last trend Stefan Ebli presented was refill and multi-use. “Why throw away when there is another way?,” he asked. “We are convinced that this trend will become a very important factor in all market areas in future. Our trigger refill solution enables maximum plastic reduction – with one refill bottle, you can fill four spray bottles, and at the same time you save 85% of plastic material, and the bottle can be made from up to 100% recycled material.”

Finally, Stefan Ebli showed a refill pack for the cosmetic industry, where the high quality outer packaging remains, but the consumer can just can change the insert.

In closing, he said: “So, now it's your turn. We have had the first ideas, so let's develop them together for our mutual success.”


Watch the full live session 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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