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Circular economy: eco-design and innovation, core concerns

Before the capital meeting of packaging and intralogistics takes place on 17–20 November 2014, the PACK EXPERTS Committee of the international packaging exhibition EMBALLAGE continues its work and examines the repercussions of the circular economy on companies.

A working session of the EMBALLAGE 2014 PACK EXPERTS* Committee, facilitated by Annette FREIDINGER-LEGAY, international packaging expert and EMBALLAGE 2014 consultant, pointed at two principal sets of issues revolving around the circular economy. These comprise difficulties related to eco-design, and packaging recyclability and recycling in particular, and the place of innovation in packaging.

From eco-design to recyclability
Companies not only have to reduce the quantities of materials employed with increasingly smaller packaging but also take account of heavy but uncertain life cycle analysis. Their concern is therefore to design recyclable packaging with equivalent materials and functions.

With this in mind, recycling channels were judged to be inadequate since they do not generate sufficient secondary raw materials. The lack of innovation in recycled materials and information on eco-design along the supply chain were also noted.

Moreover, the experts highlighted that the perception of packaging among the general public and politicians is a source of additional difficulties. Declarations and official statements constantly tarnish its image. Packaging is too often linked with “waste” and often carries “sorting” information or labels which need to be standardised.

Radical changes required at every level
Despite the above difficulties, the PACK EXPERTS committee members looked at the contribution of packaging to the circular economy.
Their global approach to this concept may well result in true changes in the current vision of packaging in terms of design and production.
The contribution of packaging to the circular economy calls for a more holistic approach in the long term. The marketing approach needs to be redefined, focusing more on the analysis of needs and uses. The minimum time scale is the product life cycle, bearing in mind that the packaging life cycle ends with recycling. The entire company is therefore concerned by the need for involvement, social and environmental self-diagnosis, tests and reporting.
For packaging to find the right place in the circular economy, the PACK EXPERTS pinpointed the following:
. the need to modify the business positioning, currently focussing on globalisation,
. identification and removal of the barriers to the circular economy,
. supplier commitment,
. raising awareness among the general public on the challenges involved.

Innovation as a solution
The concrete solutions raised above give priority, once again, to recycling and the compelling need to develop the relevant channels for the incorporation of secondary materials, but not only these!

Interest in packaging that is reusable or has a second life – or more – was another point of emphasis. The search for eco-responsible alternatives to non oil-based new materials also remained a preferred route. So there is plenty to stimulate innovation!

The PACK EXPERTS committee highlighted the art of compromise in packaging innovation, notably in view of increasingly significant regulations. This is where the packaging constraints begin, particularly since eco-design must stand for profitability. Moreover, the cost of raw and recycled materials and the heavy material and immaterial investments involved in any innovation must be minimised.

Packaging innovation has a strong impact on the life of the company and its products. This is why many PACK EXPERTS would like to give their innovation strategy time and meaning. This requires a systemic vision of packaging to:
. convince everyone in house
. unite suppliers of all kinds,
. stimulate the energy on board,
…while maintaining all the neutrality required to understand consumer and customer demands.

The above avenues of thought will be discussed during EMBALLAGE and MANUTENTION 2014 conferences and TV programmes: a full, detailed programme of major highlights is available on www.all4pack.fr

N.B. Meetings not to be missed

Conference: Wednesday, 19 November, 11.30 to 13.00, in the TV studio (Hall 6):
. Second series of international meetings with CNE, EUROPEN, Brazil and Canada:
“The Circular Economy – eco-design and packaging”

Conference on Pack Vision: Thursday, 20 November, 12.30–13.30 (Hall 6):
. “From Words to Deeds: the contributions of packaging to the circular economy”, facilitated by Bruno Siri, Delegate General of CNE

. Simultaneous interpretation (French/English) provided at all conferences
. For further information on the conference programme, log onto: www.all4pack.com

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