In most cases, the packaging is an essential part of the product. Aside from protecting the item during manufacture, storage, sale and transport, packaging often meets hygiene regulations and extends shelf life. The information about the product or its handling and the list of ingredients is also part of the packaging.
Used packaging makes up the majority of household waste. The amount has been increasing for years, millions of tons of packaging waste are generated every day. The consumption of plastic packaging has increased. Reasons are the increase in disposable bottles, small packaging and online trade as well as the trend towards finished products and the consumption of food on the go.
Closing material cycles, saving packaging and designing more sustainable or recyclable
These are challenges that not only the legislators are currently facing but also designers, packaging specialists, industry and retailers. Plastics in particular are the focus of public and political discussion.
The system operators, i.e. the companies that collect, sort and recycle the packaging waste, must comply with the specified recycling quotas. They are also required to adapt their fee systems. This means that lower fees should be charged for recyclable packaging. In addition, consumers also want less packaging and, if necessary, more sustainable alternatives. Large producers and retail chains have therefore already started to develop their packaging concepts to reconsider and make them more recyclable.
How to improve the recyclability of packaging?
Packaging concept: steps towards sustainable packaging.
Avoid: Avoid packaging if possible.
Reduce: If packaging cannot be avoided, use as little material as possible.
Reuse: If complex packaging is necessary, enable a longer service life or multiple uses.
Recycle: recover secondary materials from packaging.
Use of materials: Use recyclates and regranulates, possibly replacing fossil raw materials with renewable ones.
Thermal recycling: If no higher-quality recycling of the packaging is possible, use the packaging as a substitute fuel.
Biological recycling means that organic waste is used either directly as chopped material or, after composting or fermentation, in the form of biogas and compost.
Which materials are suitable?
The concept of the circular economy means keeping as many materials and raw materials as possible in the cycle. This presupposes that packaging contains as few pollutants as possible. It consists of recyclable materials that are collected by type as far as possible or separated by machine and fed back into the economic cycle using suitable recycling processes. This also means that these secondary raw materials are reused.