A comprehensive set of packaging guidelines has been developed to help the flexible packaging value chain efforts to design recyclable consumer packaging solutions and accelerate a circular economy.
The Designing for a Circular Economy (D4ACE) guidelines were developed by the Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging (CEFLEX) initiative.
CEFLEX is a partnership of more than 160 European companies, associations, and organizations.
The new guidelines aim to produce higher quality recycled materials to be kept in the economy and used in a wider number of sustainable end markets. In turn, this will help support investment in sorting and recycling infrastructure to make flexible packaging circular.
Focused on polyolefin-based structures as these represent over 80% of consumer flexible packaging on the European market, the guidelines provide advice on the key elements of flexible packaging including the materials used, barrier layers and coatings, size, shape, inks and adhesives. They build on the work of Project Barrier, a pioneer project of the New Plastics Economy Initiative, and current best practices, to align and accelerate progress already made.
“Achieving a circular economy is a significant challenge,” said Graham Houlder, CEFLEX project coordinator. “It will only be accomplished through wide collaboration, innovation and investment. The Designing for a Circular Economy Guidelines show the required level of collaboration is possible, bringing hundreds of stakeholders and wider industry consultation together to define a collective set of circular economy design principles for all consumer flexible packaging.”
Houlder said the guidelines are based on best-in-class sorting and recycling processes in Europe, and are meant to help stakeholders make informed design choices so that the packaging is suitable for sorting and recycling while retaining functionality.
According to CEFLEX, mono-materials will be favored over multi-material flexible packaging formats in most cases because these are the most efficient to sort and recycle. This preference for mono-material flexible packaging solutions brings with it a range of challenges to deliver similar functionality and the possibility to use existing packing machinery.