A global Packaging Design for Recycling Guide has been developed by ECR Community, the World Packaging Organisation (WPO) and FH Campus University of Applied Sciences, Austria and is available for download.
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.
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 (e.g., storage, transport, product protection, product presentation and convenience).
The Global 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.
The 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.
The guide was developed to not only recognise both the challenges and opportunities that the transition to a circular economy will bring to all stakeholders across the value chain but also that circular packaging and supporting recycling systems are a crucial step in this process.
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.
The Packaging Design for Recycling Guideline is just the first step towards a common global understanding and harmonisation of circular packaging design.
The next step is for the 60 WPO Members countries and the ECR Community to work on developing more localised versions that suit individual countries and regions.
The local guides that will be developed in collaboration with the WPO will focus on localised challenges and barriers, collection and recycling capabilities or limitations to suit each country or regional requirements.
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 borne from international collaborative efforts between the packaging, consumer products and retail sectors.
The guideline will be continuously updated and adapted to changes in collection, sorting and recycling technology, as well as to future material developments.
The Packaging Design for Recycling Guide: A Global Recommendation of Circular Packaging Design is now available on the WPO website via the https://www.worldpackaging.org/resources/41/.
By: Nerida Kelton, executive director – Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) and vice president – Sustainability & Save Food, World Packaging Organisation (WPO).