Plastic is an important and ubiquitous material in our economy and daily life. In packaging, plastic helps to ensure the food and decrease the food waste. A 39.9% of the plastic claim goes for packaging. But, at a time, the plastic is generating a huge impact on our life, on environment and on economy. In this post we analise the plastics inconvenients due to a mismanagement and what proposals on sustainability are the governments and firms implementing to achieve a circular economy.
Overview of plastics in Europe:
- 8 million tons of plastic waste are generated every year in Europe
- Less than a 30% of plastic waste is recycled.
- The claim of recycled plastics counts on a 6% of the plastics claim in Europe.
- The reuse and recycling of plastics are very low compared to paper, glass or metal.
- The 95% of the plastic value of the packaging material gets lost in the economy after its short life cycle.
- The plastic production and the plastic waste incineration produce 400 million tons of CO2 per year.
- In the EU, from 150.000 to 500.000 tons of plastic waste go to the ocean every year.
- The microplastics are collected in the sea, ingested by the marine life and introduced in the food chain.
As a result, in December 2015 the Commission approved an Action Plan for a circular economy. In 2017, was confirmed that this would be focused on the production and the plastic use to increase sustainability and would work towards the goal of ensure that all packaging plastic must be recyclable in 2030. It is also the recent approval of the Directive which bans the single-use plastics ―such as cutlery, cups, straws or cotton swabs― from 2021. With this strategy the foundations are exposed to a new plastics economy where the design and production of them respect totally the need of reuse, reparation and recycle, and where more sustainable products are developed. This strategy may stop the plastics contamination and its impact in our life and the environment.
Working towards sustainability
A coalition of packaging companies and TerraCycle unveil an innovative concept, on e-commerce, which challenges our connection with the single-use packaging: THE LOOP BAG. Loop proposes to send products to the consumers with personalized and resistant packaging, which will be reused instead of being recycled.
How does Loop work?
- Consumers must enter Loop or retail sales, such as Carrefour, web pages and buy a collaborating brands product.
- Consumers will receive their product in the Loop bag.
- After the consumers finish their product, they put the empty packaging in the Loop bag, and this will be collected at their homes.
- The packaging is cleaned up using common cleaning technologies, and therefore the bag may be reused.
Involved brands include Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars Petcare, Coca-Cola European Partners, Modeles International, Danone, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Lesieur, BIC and Beiersdorf. Moreover, Carrefour has the key as retail sales in France, and other members include UPS and Suez.
What is the impact of the Loop bags on the environment? After a TerraCycle study, it is shown that the results vary among products but tend to achieve equality with the single-use packaging when these have been reused for three life cycles.
Aside from Loop’s novel initiative, reducing plastic or replacing currently materials to others recyclable projects are carried out by many other companies. This is the case of ElPozo, which is the first meat industry obtaining the ECOSENSE certificate after driving a project which guarantees the recovery, recycling and inclusion in the process of the plastic material used in packaged products in PET films and trays. Also outstanding are the projects on substitution of the well-known plastic rings that hold the beer cans, where we can find Carlsberg, which will use an adhesive to attach them; or Corona, which replaces them by carton on the top of the cans.
At RepaQ we have technical expertise on the packaging structure redesign and relevant experience on project management focused on circular economy. Do not hesitate to contact us and obtain more information: https://www.repaq.es/en/contact/