Bring the full value chain to the table for Circular Economy success
Bring the full value chain to the table for Circular Economy success EURACTIV
EU’s Journey towards a Circular Economy Transformation
It’s been almost eight years now since the EU embarked on a journey to fundamentally transform an economy that, for many sectors, had long relied on the approach of sourcing materials, making products, and throwing them away at the end of their use.
Hans Wortman is the 4evergreen Chair.
The Importance of Value Chain Expertise
But to make the Circular Economy transformation a real success, we need to take on board the expertise that exists at all stages of the value chain. Without this, we risk being met with policies that miss out on good practices that are already in place or set rules that are incoherent with sustainability efforts that are already underway in many areas.
For fibre-based packaging, that means sharing knowledge between designers, manufacturers, recyclers, researchers, brand owners and retailers who use the packaging to carry and protect the products they sell to consumers.
Fibre-Based Packaging and the Circular Economy
At the same time, the move to a Circular Economy has felt like a natural evolution for several sectors, including the fibre-based packaging sector. Paper itself has been recycled for centuries. Fibre-based materials come from sustainably managed forests and are used in multiple products, from cereal boxes to paper cups and delivery packages. The materials are designed to be recycled. Thus, recycled wood fibres are used many times. In Europe, 81,5% of all fibre-based packaging is recycled (Eurostat 2020), a higher rate by volume than glass, metal and plastic.
The Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR)
With the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) on the horizon, we are at a historical moment both for our sector and Europe as a whole. There is a real opportunity to build on the high-quality recycling that already exists, to strengthen an approach so that designers continue to create new packaging products and innovations with recyclability at their core, and – perhaps most importantly – to set ambitious targets so that used fibre-based products are properly collected and sorted to reach the right recycling facility and stay in the material loop. For that to happen, it’s vital that value chain expertise has a seat at the discussion table.
4evergreen alliance: the full value chain approach
There is, of course, no quick fix to the challenges we face and no one part of the value chain has all the answers. That is why, in 2020, our value chain decided to create an alliance covering all steps of the packaging life cycle. Collectively, we agreed on an ambitious end goal: to focus on several essential actions in order to ensure we reach a 90% recycling rate for all fibre-based packaging by 2030. Our raison d’être is not to influence the political decision-making process, but rather bring together the leading experts from each step of the chain, share ideas and best practices to build a toolbox that industry can use to move forward towards our goal together.
We now count over 110 members from all over Europe and beyond, from leading manufacturers, recyclers and designers to major brand owners from sectors such as electronics, e-commerce, food and cosmetics. Together we know better than anyone what’s needed to perfect our packaging’s circularity while ensuring it is fit for purpose.
A toolbox for circular design and better collection
By sharing robust science and reviewing the evidence, the 4evergreen alliance has mobilised its collective expertise to build tools and guidelines that directly address the challenges already mentioned. For circular design, we have developed circularity by design guidelines with recommendations on designing the most recyclable fibre-based products. We have also developed a recyclability evaluation protocol that can be used to evaluate the results of the Confederation of European Paper Industries (Cepi) harmonised European laboratory test method to score the recyclability of specific packaging materials. We also reviewed collection and sorting systems across Europe and provided recommendations for how these can be enhanced so that even more fibre-based packaging reaches the right recycling facility and is effectively recycled.
With this toolbox taking shape, and to support the alliance’s ambition to perfect the circularity of fibre-based packaging, one of our main goals in the months ahead will be to ensure that our industry recognises and uses these tools to their maximum effect. In fact, we are already seeing projects where members have joined forces on their own initiatives to improve recycling outcomes. One example is a project to accelerate paper cup recycling across Europe. Others include joint initiatives to minimise non-fibre-based barrier materials so that food packaging is even easier to recycle, and new approaches to sort different types of packaging for optimal recycling outcomes.
Making use of this expertise for effective environmental policy
The PPWR rightly recognises the importance of setting Design for Recycling criteria so that products are designed with recyclability as the guiding principle. Setting performance grades according to those criteria makes sense. Effective collection and sorting systems are also vital. At the end of the day, products that are more likely to end up in landfill than in a recycling facility can have no place in Europe’s future if we want to keep materials in the loop and protect the
SDGs, Targets, and Indicators Analysis
1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?
- SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
- SDG 13: Climate Action
- SDG 15: Life on Land
The article discusses the need for a circular economy transformation, which is closely related to SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production. It emphasizes the importance of recycling and sustainable management of resources, which aligns with SDG 12. Additionally, the article mentions the goal of reaching a 90% recycling rate for all fiber-based packaging by 2030, which is connected to SDG 13 – Climate Action. Lastly, the article highlights the use of sustainably managed forests as a source of fiber-based materials, which relates to SDG 15 – Life on Land.
2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?
- Target 12.5: By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse.
- Target 13.3: Improve education, awareness-raising, and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning.
- Target 15.2: By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests, and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally.
The article indirectly addresses Target 12.5 by advocating for increased recycling rates and the development of tools and guidelines for circular design and better collection of fiber-based packaging. It also highlights the need for education and awareness-raising on recycling and sustainability, which is connected to Target 13.3. Additionally, the mention of sustainably managed forests aligns with Target 15.2.
3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?
- Recycling rate of fiber-based packaging
- Number of members in the 4evergreen alliance
- Number of projects/initiatives focused on improving recycling outcomes
The article mentions that in Europe, 81.5% of all fiber-based packaging is recycled, indicating a potential indicator for measuring progress towards Target 12.5. The number of members in the 4evergreen alliance can serve as an indicator of the collective effort and collaboration towards achieving the targets. Additionally, the article mentions specific projects and initiatives aimed at improving recycling outcomes, which can be used as indicators of progress.
Table: SDGs, Targets, and Indicators
|SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production||Target 12.5: By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse.||– Recycling rate of fiber-based packaging
– Number of projects/initiatives focused on improving recycling outcomes
|SDG 13: Climate Action||Target 13.3: Improve education, awareness-raising, and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning.||– Number of members in the 4evergreen alliance
– Number of projects/initiatives focused on improving recycling outcomes
|SDG 15: Life on Land||Target 15.2: By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests, and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally.||– Number of members in the 4evergreen alliance|
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