Building a circular economy for packaging

Investing in the solution

The packaging industry is one area of the economy that is evolving in the face of tightening environmental structures and the drive towards net-zero.

The government has recognised that Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), delayed in the UK until 2024, is one of the most suitable vehicles to reduce waste generation and increase diversion from landfills.

While it is true that changes in the way we package and transport consumer goods can have a bearing on the overall volumes of waste, end of life management for waste packaging is just as important to get right.

Companies now consider a product’s end of life in the design process, but it is important to remember the bigger picture and that globally waste management facilities still rely on inefficient and outdated technologies.


Burying the problem

It is sobering to think that every piece of plastic ever produced still exists in one form or another.

According to Grand View Research, the value of the global waste management market reached $989bn last year and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.2% from 2022 to 2030.

Waste management is no longer a responsibility that advanced western economies can dump in somebody else’s lap. And there is no doubt that to advance recycling, the performance of systems from the collection and sorting to the sale of materials, needs to improve throughout the world.

The increases in regulatory oversight and environmental awareness are, however, generating new commercial opportunities. The industry is being driven to innovate, with the by-products becoming a much more valuable proposition.

With that in mind, it has never been more important for stakeholders to make the best out of their data, to capture, structure and understand it and then use it for good.

Aiding recycling efforts, tackling plastic pollution, and reducing litter, alongside complying with the Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT), global Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Deposit Return Schemes (DRS), depends upon it.


Sustainable business models

Companies are starting to develop more sustainable business models and think about how they can re-use and recycle existing materials.

A recent report from the British Plastics Federation said the UK could recycle 3-5 times as much plastic as it did in 2019 – and note the caveat here – “if the government works with the private and public sectors to accelerate investment in collection and processing infrastructure.”

Litter, waste separation, and collection bring a collective responsibility to society, right across the value chain from suppliers to manufacturers and brand owners to retailers, right down to the consumer.

Successful EPR schemes enhance the efficiency and transparency of the system, incentivising upstream packaging solutions, while also garnering funding dedicated to collecting and processing after use.

Data quality will be instrumental to the successful future of our waste management landscape. Why? Because it’s only fair that producers know exactly what they’re paying for through a completely transparent mechanism that accurately apportions responsibility. Data will ensure every material pays its way.

In the UK, the scheme administrator will be responsible for analysing the end-of-life costs and defining a fee structure. The accurate reporting of the volume of material placed on the market, the amount of packaging collected by local authorities and businesses, and true recycling rates will be essential to that.

Without sufficient data, it would be almost impossible to calculate the full net cost of recycling.


How we can help

There is work to be done and Ecoveritas can help. Our comprehensive platform – Ecoview – provides users with complete transparency and accessibility to their packaging data and offers brands and retailers a detailed breakdown of their packaging supply chain. No more disaggregated, decentralised, and non-standardised data.

Ecoveritas ensures you have the data in hand to contribute to a fair and effective solution. Transparent and accurate reporting, monitoring, and independent auditing of systems are necessary to eliminate discrimination, ensure compliance, drive cost efficiency and provide a level playing field for materials and producers.

Optimal EPR regulations should reflect the unique waste management requirements in that country. Done well, they boost recycling systems, support closing the gap between what packaging is technically recyclable and what is actually recycled, ensure money is invested in the right places, and hold businesses to account for the packaging choices they make; all of which enable a circular economy.

The onus is on manufacturers and brands to make sure the systems their products flow into are robust and circular. By leveraging our services and combining upstream measures on design and materials with post-use strategies, the system-wide approach we all want is within reach.

By promoting resource efficiency and a low-carbon footprint, being accountable for the environmental consequences of products, and their recycling or reuse in demonstratable and defined ways, we can provide the high-quality data environment upon which meaningful policymaking, efficient resource allocation and crucial investment is made.

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