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Sustainable Packaging; Packaging for the Circular Economy


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SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING is integrating environmental criteria in the design process of a product-packaging combination. This means that besides the normal criteria, such as: marketing, functional, economic and technical criteria, also environmental criteria are taken into account.

This presentation is based on our experiences in the Network Sustainable Packaging. The Network organized from 2010-2013, ten workshops for different market segments and three general meetings about sustainable packaging in The Netherlands. More than 200 professionals from packaging industry attended this meetings and shared their views and insights.

Published in: Design
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Sustainable Packaging; Packaging for the Circular Economy

  2. 2. “It’s not about the packaging! 90-95% of the environmental impact of a product-packaging combination is in the content.” Siem Haffmans – Partners for Innovation
  3. 3. WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING? SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING is integrating environmental criteria in the design process of a product-packaging combination. This means that besides the normal criteria, such as: marketing, functional, economic and technical criteria, also environmental criteria are taken into account. The scope of sustainable packaging is the complete life-cycle of the product-packaging combination. This can result in improving the current packaging system, but also in developing a complete new product-packaging system for the circular economy or even packaging solutions with a positive impact! Sustainable Packaging
  4. 4. STATEMENT: “THE MOST SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING IS NO PACKACKING” LUSH – Shampoo “Our passion is to get rid of packaging when designing a product. We use as little packaging in the shops as possible and give you the choice to go completely naked - we mean the products, not yourselves. About half of our products can be taken home with no packaging. We save nearly 6 million plastic bottles globally from selling shampoo bars alone”. Nedvang “Prevention” price. Argumentation of the jury: “This producer has found a way to eliminate the whole packaging, by rethinking the way how products are being used. This has led also to reduced use and transport of water. The solution: a solid piece of shampoo soap, that last as long as three bottles (250 ml) of shampoo.” (Nedvang, 2012). Sustainable Packaging Photo: Lush / Nedvang Prevention Award 2012 (
  5. 5. STATEMENT: “SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING = EFFECTIVE PACKAGING” Sustainable Packaging is about finding the optimum between reducing the amount of packaging material (weight and volume) and minimizing product loss (protecting the product). WESTLAND CHEESE Maaslander (Westland Cheese), introduced in 2011 a reclosable envelop packaging for sliced cheese. “This new packaging has reduced the amount of plastic with more than 65%. Beside that the packaging is easy to open and can be closed leak proof, so the cheese keeps fresh and tasteful for a longer period”, says Robin van de Bruinhorst, brand manager of Maaslander. Sustainable Packaging
  6. 6. STATEMENT: “SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING = EFFECTIVE PACKAGING” Optimal Packaging (The Consumer Goods Forum, Global Packaging Project, 2011) Sustainable Packaging
  7. 7. “Packaging isn’t part of the problem of sustainability, it is part of the solution” Julian Carroll – Managing Director EUROPEN
  8. 8. WHY SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING? Three Shades of Green (based on: Prof. Ab Stevels & Boks, 2003) Sustainable Packaging
  9. 9. BUSINESS GREEN @ PHILIPS The optimum balance between the different shades of green, or Business Green, is a consideration that every company has to make for its own. Philips strives to make the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation and the goal is to improve the lives of 3 billion people a year by 2025. For a sustainable world, we see the transition from a linear to a circular economy as a necessary boundary condition. EcoDesign considers the following Philips Green Focal Areas, and Packaging is one of them. Sustainable Packaging
  10. 10. BUSINESS GREEN @ UNILEVER Packaging is an integrated part of the ‘Sustainable Living Plan’, committing to a ten year journey towards sustainable growth. As part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan they have set a bold target to halve the waste associated with our products by 2020. They will achieve this through a combination of reducing, reusing, recycling and eliminating certain packaging materials. By 2020 Unilever is planning to reduce the weight of packaging that they use by a third through: > light weighting materials > optimising structural and material design > developing concentrated versions of our products > eliminating unnecessary packaging. Sustainable Packaging
  11. 11. OPTIMIZING THE LIFE CYCLE A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a very useful instrument to assess the environmental impact of products and packaging. LCA: Life Cycle Assessment (Chalmers University of Technology, 1998) Sustainable Packaging
  12. 12. PREVENTION OF FOOD WASTE Worldwide, a third of the food intended for human consumption is wasted, according FAO figures. How much food is wasted by Dutch consumers? > Dutch consumers are wasting more than € 2,4 billion edible food per year. That is equal to € 400 per household per year. > Every individual consumer is wasting more than 50 kg food per year. So we are buying 20% of our food for the waste bin. Source: Milieu Centraal Sustainable Packaging
  13. 13. Active Packaging Active packaging can prevent food waste. FreshPaper™by Fenugreen is a simple piece of paper that keeps fruits & veggies fresh for 2-4 times longer, organically. > Paper infused with herbs (fenegreek) Mondi Consumer Coatings offers an innovative anti-microbial packaging solution under the brand name Sanocoat. Sustainable Packaging
  14. 14. OPTIMIZING THE PRODUCTION PROCESS Packaging can have additional functions in the production process. Smart packaging can reduce the production costs, which makes a higher packaging price feasible. For producers of packaging materials it is a challenge to find these added values of the packaging. DSM introduced in 2010 the Pack-Age™, an innovative ready-to-use packaging solution for the natural ripening of hard to semi-hard cheese. The packaging film is moisture-permeable, so cheeses can still dry under air as they do in the natural ripening process. As the packaging is moisture-permeable, during ripening the cheese will dry as natural ripened cheeses would, and its taste, texture and dry rind will all develop in a similar way. “Pack-Age can be compared to professional cyclists clothing featuring breathable membranes and wind stoppers”, says Corstiaan Hooft of DSM Innovation Center. Winner: NVC Bronzen Noot 2012. Sustainable Packaging
  15. 15. OPTIMIZING THE SUPPLY CHAIN Weight and volume reduction of the packaging can save storage space, transport costs and shelf space in the supermarket. Albert Heijn reduced the volume of dishwasher tablets with 40%, compared to other brands. Shelf-Ready Packaging (SRP) saves labour costs for the retailer and gives a better presentation of the products for the brand-owner (Unilever). Sustainable Packaging
  16. 16. CIRCULAR ECONOMY “Shifting toward a circular economy isn't about returning soda cans. It is about changing your business model, changing how you design, your materials, your vehicles, so you can recover the parts or components, so you can sell them or lease them in another way." Ellen MacArthur, Ellen MacArthur Foundation
  17. 17. PACKAGING FOR THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY The circular economy is an industrial economy that is, by design or intention, restorative and in which material flows are of two types, biological nutrients, designed to reenter the biosphere safely, and technical nutrients, which are designed to circulate at high quality without entering the biosphere. Circular Economy Model (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2012) Circular Economy
  18. 18. PACKAGING FOR THE TECHNICAL CYCLE In the Netherlands more and more packaging waste is collected and recycled every year. Glass packaging is collected for more than 80% with a separated glass collection system, which saves more than 400.000 tons of waste. Paper and Packaging Board is collected and recycled for approximately 90% and the paper fibres stays in the technical cycle. Plastics recycling is relatively low with 40-50%, but growing. Suez SITA has build a sorting installation in Rotterdam for separating plastic waste from households, to make it suitable for recycling. This installation sorts 30.000 tons per year and will be doubled in 2015. The quality of the sorted streams is high and constant. This makes the fractions wanted by recycling companies. Circular Economy
  19. 19. PACKAGING FOR THE TECHNICAL CYCLE A packaging solution can be designed for the technical cycle. This means that it contains the highest possible percentage of recycled material and/or that it can be recycled again at the end of the life cycle. Innocent Drinks was the first producer that introduced a 100% recycled PET bottle on the market in 2007. The bottle is also 20% lighter and has a food contact approval. “Changing to 100% recycled PET is reducing the CO2 footprint of the packaging with 55% and thus saving 1.000 ton CO2 per year”, according Innocent sustainability manager Jessica Sansom (Innocent Drinks, 2008). Circular Economy
  20. 20. PACKAGING FOR THE TECHNICAL CYCLE Pool systems Transport packaging, such as crates and pallets are very well suitable for reuse with a deposit or pool system. The Dutch Food Retail Association (CBL - Centraal Bureau Levensmiddelenhandel) has developed a pool system for transport crates, in cooperation with the Food Industry. The black crates are a indispensable part of the supermarket. Since the introduction more than 23 million crates are rotating in this pool system. The HDPE crates are rotating in the system on average 10 times per year and can be used for several years. Recycled material is used for the production and at the end of their lifetime they can be recycled again. Circular Economy
  21. 21. PACKAGING FOR THE BIOLOGICAL CYCLE Biobased Economy is about the transition from an economy based on fossil fuels to an economy that runs on biomass feedstock. In a bio- based economy so it is about the use of biomass for non-food applications. These applications include components, chemicals, materials, transportation fuels, electricity and heat. Big brand owners including Danone, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Heinz and Tetra Pak have launched or integrated bioplastics in their packaging strategy. Is there competition between food, feed and bioplastics regarding agricultural area? According European Bioplastics, the global agricultural area and the way it is used shows that about 0.001 percent used to grow feedstock for bioplastics come nowhere near the 97 percent used for pastures and growing food and feed. (source: Circular Economy
  22. 22. PACKAGING FOR THE BIOLOGICAL CYCLE PLANT BOTTLE The Coca-Cola Company and Heinz, launched in 2009 the first recyclable bottle that was partly made from biobased materials. The PlantBottle™ is since than introduced in more than 40 countries and until end of 2014 more than 25 billion PlantBottle are brought on the market (Coca Cola, 2015). PlantBottle packaging uses materials that are up to 30% plants-based, without sacrificing performance or recyclability. One of the monomers or building stones of the PET, monoethylene glycol (MEG), is made of sugarcane. Research and development is done to make also the other monomere of PET, purified terephthalic acid (PTA), from biobased resources. Avantium has entered into joint development agreements with The Coca-Cola Company, Danone and ALPLA to further develop and commercialize PEF bottles. Circular Economy
  23. 23. PACKAGING FOR THE BIOLOGICAL CYCLE Synprodo and Synbra Technologies, have developed a biobased and biodegradable foam, based on Polylactic Acid (PLA). BioFoam® is a new, patented foam that is comparable to EPS (expanded polystyrene). The raw material for BioFoam consists of biopolymers, which are made of vegetable materials (an infinite resource). This makes BioFoam the first foam to have an organic base. The consequence is that BioFoam, like Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), can be reused. In addition, it is biodegradable and it can be industrially composted at high temperatures under the influence of moisture and bacteria. BioFoam is durable and is suitable for long-term use in virtually all technical and packaging applications. Circular Economy
  24. 24. PACKAGING FOR THE BIOLOGICAL CYCLE The biggest challenge is to use the specific properties of biobased materials, such as the biodegradability or specific barrier properties. Loose-fill materials can be made from biodegradable starch foam. Because this kind of products have a big chance to end up in the environment, the biodegradability is a big advantage. PaperFoam is a packaging material made of paper fibres and potato starch. The packaging is biodegradable, compostable and can be recycled with the paper. ( Circular Economy
  25. 25. REVERSE LOGISTICS The Circular Economy needs smart and efficient return logistics to get products and resources back, for reuse, remanufacturing and recycling. Remia introduced a packaging that facilitates the return logistics of used cooking oil. The yellow packaging can be delivered in yellow containers placed in supermarkets and other strategic locations. The cooking oil is reprocessed to bio-fuel. ( In case of e-commerce business, many websites offer the flexibility of cash on delivery (COD) to their customers. So web shops also have a growing need for smart packaging solutions for reversed logistics. Circular Economy
  26. 26. CRADLE TO CRADLE “Use as much packaging as is desired to protect and differentiate the product, because that package will become a biological or technical nutrient after its first use”. William McDonough & Michael Braungart, MBDC
  27. 27. The ultimate challenge is to develop packaging solutions with a positive impact! In ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things’ (2002) and ‘The Upcycle’ (2013), Michael Braungart and William McDonough stated: “doing less bad isn’t good enough. Zero impact is not the final goal, according we must strive for a positive impact on our ecosystem.” Cradle to Cradle
  28. 28. Network Sustainable Packaging This presentation is based on our experiences in the Network Sustainable Packaging. The Network organized from 2010- 2013, ten workshops for different market segments and three general meetings about sustainable packaging in The Netherlands. More than 200 professionals from packaging industry attended this meetings and shared their views and insights. The Network Sustainable Packaging was executed by: > Netherlands Packaging Centre ( > Partners for Innovation ( > Financially supported by Netherlands Agency ( Download the full publication (in Dutch) at: LinkedIn Group: Duurzaam Verpakken