Circular economy for plastic packaging

Conversion to circular economy for plastic packaging 

By 2018 January the European Commission adopted a strategy1 for plastic in accordance with EU contingency plan for circular economy. According to the planall plastic packaging within the EU market must be recyclable by 2030. 

Approximately 28,5 million tons of plastic waste are generated within Europe every year. Packaging represents 59 percent of plastic waste. According to forecasts, 95 percent of plastic package material value, or 70/105 billions EUR, is lost each year after a short one-time useThe EU’s vision for new  plastic economy is: 

“ A smart, innovative and sustainable plastic industrywhere design and production fully respect the need for reuserepair and recycling, create growth and jobs in Europe and help reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on imported fossil fuels. 

“The movement towards a more sustainable circular plastic economy, in addition to environmental effects, can also create significant economic benefits.”

What are the impacts for the industry? 

In the report there is a list2  for recommended actions for national authorities and industries to improve the economic and quality of plastic recycling, reduction of plastic waste and litter, push investment and innovation towards circular solutions and develop the global process. 

The industry is invited to: 

  • Take concrete steps towards improving dialogue and cooperation across the value chain, especially regarding material and product design aspects. 
  • Make voluntary commitments that support the strategy’s goals, especially regarding the recycling of recycled plastics. 
  • Promote existing alternatives to plastic disposable items (eg. catering and take-aways) where these are more environmentally friendly. 
  • Strive for and create overriding industrial agreements to reduce the release of microplasts into the environment. 
  • Introduce measures to prevent spillage of plastic pellets. 
  • Increase infrastructure and R & D investments in directly relevant areas to achieve the strategy’s goals. 
  • Participate in the process of setting up a private investment fund to compensate for environmental external effects of plastic production. 
  • Actively support an integrated, cross-border circular plastic economy, by contributing to the development of a global plastic protocol. 

The EU is also working on future actions to implement the strategy: 

  • Harmonized Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. 
  • Improve traceability of chemicals and address the problems with inherited substances in recycle streams. 
  • New eco-design measures: review requirements to support recyclability of plastics. 
  • Legislative regarding disposable plastic articles. 

Create opportunities from the challenges! 

Moving towards a more sustainable circular plastic economy, in addition to positive environmental effect, can also create significant economic advantages. Four areas of significant economic impact within design improvements have been identified and quantified3; appearance and design, polymer choice, color selection and additives. A better product design in general might lead to savings in order of 77-120 EUR/ton plastic waste.

Knightec has one key competence area, Sustainable Plastic Design, with the defined strategy to incorporate sustainability into every aspect of plastic design by creative conceptual solutions, design and material choice to producibility, manufacturing and costs. Knightec has the talent to develop innovative solutions based on our six identified competence dimensions as well as our extensive experience of plastic design.

Writer

Madelene Eklund is a senior consultant active within Technology Knightec. She has many years experience in plastic design and product development, especially within medicinal technology and consumer products. Madelene is running the competence specialist area Sustainable Plastic Design and works, among other things, with advice and training for designers and customers. 

This article was originally written in Swedish by the writer and has been translated.

References:

1) COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS, A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy {SWD(2018) 16 final}, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/publications/legal-documents-plastics-strategy-circular-economy_sv

2) ANNEXES to the Communication from the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy {SWD(20198) 16 final}, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/publications/legal-documents-plastics-strategy-circular-economy_sv

3) Ellen MacArthur Foundation, The new plastics economy: Rethinking the future of plastics & Catalysing action, (2017), https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications.