Over the years, consumers have increasingly prioritized sustainability when making purchase decisions, reflecting how people are more accepting of eco-friendlier initiatives.
The concept of a circular economy for packaging has also become a globally accepted, potential solution to the earth’s sustainability issues. The circular economy is a model system of production and consumption where resources are reused or recycled to maximize efficiency and reduce waste.
Product packaging can play a key role in a circular economy. Organizations are now investing time and money in developing more circular packaging solutions, where packaging waste can be infinitely reprocessed or re-enter the system as raw materials for other products.
Discover how the circular economy works, the role of packaging in it, and how your brand can generate business value through circular packaging.
What is a Circular Economy?
A circular economy is an economic system seeking to reduce waste, emissions, and energy use while creating jobs and boosting economic growth.
The circular economy is a system that seeks to make products last longer and disposed of responsibly by creating a closed-loop system of production, and consumption, and end of life management.
This system is an alternative to the traditional “take, make, dispose” model, in which people constantly consume more resources to produce items that do not last very long. Instead, the circular economy encourages more efficient use of materials so they can be reused, recycled, or/and repurposed for extended use over time.
The Linear Economy vs. The Circular Economy
- Take-Make-Dispose vs. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Compared to the linear economy, the circular model strives to eliminate waste by recycling materials, reusing them, composting them, or upcycling them into new products. Meanwhile, the linear economy often involves discarding old products and materials, creating a large amount of waste.
In a circular economy, people reduce their use of natural resources by reusing materials and recycling them into new products. Its model minimizes the waste that should be disposed of and allows consumers to use their resources better.
- Eco-efficiency vs. Eco-effectiveness
In a linear economy, businesses try to maximize the resources they use while minimizing the waste they produce. It is done through cost-benefit analysis, wherein companies look at what would be more efficient: using more raw materials and creating less waste, or using fewer raw materials but creating more waste?
In a circular economy, businesses focus on maximizing the value of their products over their lifetime. Rather than looking at how to make their products more efficient in their production and consumption phases (i.e., how much material can go into making them), they look at what can be done with those products after they are used.
- Short-term, purchase to sale life cycle vs. Long-term, multiple life cycles
Linear economies involve the extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. The linear economy focuses on a product’s short-term, purchase-to-sale life cycle. It is concerned with producing and selling a single product and its disposal at the end of its useful life.
A circular economy focuses on long-term multiple life cycles of products, wherein they are reused at their end of life or repurposed into another product. Circular economies aim to reduce waste by designing products that can be repaired rather than replaced when they break down over time.
- Products vs. Services
The linear economy focuses on making things that are used up and thrown away, such as bottles, cans, or plastic bags. It does not consider how much energy is required to produce these items or what happens when they are no longer useful.
The circular economy emphasizes recycling materials so you can use them repeatedly. Rather than just making new products from scratch, it considers how to make existing items last longer so they do not have to be replaced quickly.
- Downcycling vs. Upcycling, cascading and high-grade recycling
The linear economy focuses on downcycling, where a product is broken down into parts and then used to make another product. Meanwhile, the circular economy focuses on upcycling, or reusing the same material to make something new.
In a circular economy, if a company produces paper products, it might collect any excess packaging material from its customers and use it to create new products. The idea behind this is that you do not want to waste anything—you always want to use what you have in beneficial ways.
The Role of Product Packaging in the Circular Economy
What is Circular Packaging?
Circular packaging is product packaging intended to have a low environmental impact, as opposed to packaging made of plastic or other materials.
This type of packaging is created by recycling waste material and then converting it into new usable items. You can use it for many products, including food containers, clothing, medical supplies, and toys.
Circular Packaging Benefits: Why It Matters
- Brings sustainability
Circular packaging is a sustainable packaging solution that reduces the amount of waste. The idea behind circular packaging is that manufacturers can save money on materials, shipping, and disposal costs by using a single container that you can reuse for as long as possible.
Thus, the manufacturing process consumes fewer resources, and less waste will be generated when consumers use the product.
- Helps reduce costs
Companies can reduce their carbon footprint by using renewable materials. Circular packaging helps brands and consumers save money in the long run by avoiding costs associated with pollution cleanup.
- Offers a competitive advantage
Circular packaging is an innovative way to package products that reduce their environmental impact. Many consumers prioritize their preference for brands that provide sustainable options as part of their business, leading to competitive advantage.
Circular packaging has many benefits, including reduced emissions and increased productivity, resource efficiency, and innovation. Several corporations today are more socially responsible and aware of how they should operate their business, so having a process such as circular packaging gives an advantage.
- Improves brand image
Circular packaging improves your brand image by showing that you care about the environment and want to help it thrive.
Recent statistics indicate that 67% of consumers are more aware of the effects that packaging has, so focusing on that will increase your brand’s image. Consumers who see companies doing their part are more likely to support that brand, leading to an improved brand image.
- Maintains business in an unstable future
Regulations may change in the future and can cause operations to shift. Environmentally friendly business practices, such as organic recycling, will become a major theme, and governments and markets will prefer companies that adopt them.
Incorporating such methods will help your business keep up with regulatory and consumption trends.
Circular Packaging Solutions for Your Business
- Replace single-use plastics with compostable or recycled packaging
Replacing single-use plastics with compostable or recyclable packaging can help a business in several ways. Compostable packaging is made from biodegradable and renewable materials that break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass.
Recycled packaging is made from materials used before and then collected and processed. The materials can be plastic bottles, glass bottles, folding cartons, paperboard containers and trays, metal cans, or aluminum cans.
Using these materials can make your customers feel they are doing their part to help the environment.
- Engineer your packaging so it is easy to recycle
Using biodegradable materials is the best way to make your packaging designs easy to recycle. Biodegradable materials such as wood and cotton are great options since they break down in the environment.
When you use these materials in your packaging designs, you can be assured that the waste will turn into compost and will not release toxic chemicals into the environment.
- Reduce the materials used for your packaging
By decreasing the amount of material used in your packaging, you will be able to use less energy and fewer raw materials to create your product. It helps the environment and saves money because it reduces waste and costs.
Sustainable packaging involves easy disposal with limited manufacturing materials. It can be used for green marketing since there is an ongoing trend of using sustainable products such as metal straws and bamboo toothbrushes.
- Recover for reuse
One way that product brands can get started with circular packaging solutions is by setting up systems to recover materials for reuse. It helps the environment and society because people can get more use out of their products before tossing them away.
These systems may include recycling programs that allow customers to return used items so they can be reused again by someone else. By doing this, brands can reduce pollution and save money on trash removal fees.
- Provide information about recycling and recovery
Many product manufacturers have already started to move toward circular packaging solutions. Still, not all of them have made it a point to include their products’ recycling and recovery information.
Businesses should start providing information about recycling and recovery for their products to help consumers decide which company’s product packaging solution is the most environmentally friendly.
A recent printing statistic indicated that 74% of consumers build trust with the business if they are honest, which leads to a bigger audience.
Protecting Earth and Humanity
There is no doubt that the biggest benefit of circular packaging is the reduction of waste. Bringing out the most recyclable product design strengthens the appeal of low-cost, low-waste products.
In a sense, it also brings renewed value to recycling and improving our waste management infrastructure.
Overall, proper circular packaging design can bring maximum efficiency to the production line with higher quality recycled products and less material wastage.
Learn more about how your business can contribute to the circular economy and bring your sustainable packaging to life by contacting experts from Meyers. Meyers deeply believes that sustainability is central to corporate responsibility, pledging total commitment to optimizing the sustainability of their operations across materials sourcing, recycling, waste reduction, and energy usage.