The idea of the circular economy is that we eradicate the linear route from production; to use, to throwing away. We instead loop the waste materials back into materials for use for something else. For example, a company will create a cardboard box to send you your goods, you receive it, and then you put it in the bin, and it goes to landfill.
With circular economy packaging, that cardboard would be made, used and then either broken down and used for something else or made back into a box.
World of packaging
In the world of packaging, it can be difficult to understand why all packaging doesn’t get recycled. However, there are complications such as card and paper mixed with plastic or perhaps it’s dirtied with grease. Therefore, there is a transition that needs to take place. One that takes us from the linear culture to the circular economy.
Everything we buy from a shop or off the internet comes in some sort of packaging. Often it’s difficult to tell whether that packaging goes in the recycling or not.
Therefore, another consideration is what kinds of messaging and information they want to display.
Right-sized packaging is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s ensuring that only the minimum amount of materials surrounds packaged goods. The paper and pulp industry will have to move into this space. It’s quite common to open up your latest delivery and find that the box is mostly empty space and your product is only a small part of it. Not to mention the air-filled plastic that keeps it in the corner of the box.
Landfill and Recycling
Our landfill is, with any luck, soon to be a thing of the past. With packaging becoming more recyclable, there should be no need to send anything to landfill. The way that the packaging industry will contribute to the eradication of items going to landfill, making it usable again. Even just by reducing the size of packaging can radically reduce the amount being sent to landfill.
Who is responsible?
Part of making the move towards the circular economy is recognising who is responsible and ensuring there is accountability.
Packaging companies have a responsibility to improve their packaging. Not only this, but consumers have to choose products responsibly. In addition to this, it’s important that consumers are holding the pulp and paper industry accountable for their actions. For example, if the products are placed in the wrong sized boxes causing unnecessary waste, then the consumers must call them out on it.
The David Attenborough Effect
In recent years, the UK watched David Attenborough nature documentaries about the impact of plastic on the oceans and other ways humans are damaging the environment.
The newly named ‘David Attenborough Effect’ describes the impact these documentaries had on the public. It opened eyes to the issues. Therefore, they’re more likely to hold companies accountable, and the pulp and paper industry will experience more pressure on them to step to the circular economy challenge.
One of the challenges that the UK faces when trying to recycle packaging is the vastly different council recycling solutions.
Unfortunately, each council in the UK recycles differently. This means there is a vast amount of confusion when it comes to packaging. If we are to meet our recycling targets set by the UK Government, and achieve a circular economy, the UK will need to set up a uniform collection system.
This will mean that all residents have the same number of bins and rules for using them. In addition, the rubbish will get recycled in the same way. Therefore, multiple recycling plants across the UK can help with increased loads or excess waste if there happens to be a spike in waste in a neighbouring council. However, this is still something the UK needs to campaign for.
Circular economy packaging
Circular economy compliant packaging is entering the pulp and paper industry. This will mean that companies will have to be on top of creating reusable and recyclable packaging as well as right-sized packaging solutions.
Your business can help to make sure your packaging fits into a circular economy by choosing sustainable solutions that your customers will love. The first step can be towards eliminating plastic from your packaging and only using recyclable, reusable products such as paper and cardboard. Ensuring your packaging fits into a circular economy can not only help the environment but can be a key selling point of your brand as more and more customers look for sustainable plastic-free brands.