Packaging 2030 – Vision and reality
Commentary by Stephan Laske, R&D Director at Greiner Packaging, on the opportunities and challenges of a circular economy.
There is an opportunity in every challenge. That this is the case is also proven by the way the entire plastics industry deals with the subject of circular economy. An initial state of shock has been followed by a mood of optimism, and the striving for (sustainable) innovations has been additionally stimulated.
But where there is a will, there is not always a way – not yet. For example, the use of recycled materials for food packaging (with the exception of r-PET) is not permitted yet. At the same time, there are technical limitations which rule out the use of recycled materials for certain applications (e.g. r-PET in yoghurt cups). In addition to these technical and legal factors, there are monetary aspects - the demand for recyclates influences the need for virgin material and stirs up existing price models.
At Greiner Packaging, we take a holistic approach to the subject of circular economy: We use recyclates for the production of our packaging (as far as legally permitted and technically reasonable) and develop our products to achieve maximum recyclability. As much as we want to promote a circular economy, we must not forget the following conflict of objectives: in some cases, more recycling can mean higher CO2 emissions. Here again it makes sense to look at the big picture.
As far as bio-plastics are concerned, a healthy dose of common sense should be applied as well. If a material is renewable or compostable, that is wonderful. However, if it cannot be processed properly or cannot keep up with the essential properties of plastics from fossil sources, its use should be questioned.
A broad exchange will be decisive for a functioning interaction of the entire material chain. Greiner Packaging, for example, is part of the Plastics Cluster and numerous other platforms. Only through such networking a functioning and sustainable recycling economy can be created - together.