A Sustainable Packaging Solution for the now.

Contour recently travelled to Europe to attend the BioFACH 2020 conference in Nuremberg, Germany where the latest European packaging trends were shared. Although Europe doesn’t hold all the answers to our global recycling crisis and for the long term, a trend is emerging. 

Circulate, Innovate, Eliminate. Is the answer we have all been after. What has been found is that 50% of current plastic packaging needs to remain in high value circulation, 30% needs to be eradicated via redesign and innovation, and 20% needs to shift from single use to reusable to eliminate waste.


Circulate = recycle better

New Zealand’s recycling system is limited due to the types of plastics it can recycle. For us to develop a circular system where plastic can be used in a closed loop structure, we need to look at not only the material choice used in packaging but be sure it is also economically recyclable – not just technically recyclable. 

It’s not just a matter of something being recyclable, but whether the current Material Recovery Facilities in New Zealand can sort it. Choosing to use a mix of different plastics in your products packaging complicates recycling. The more complicated something is to recycle, the more sorting is required, and the more costly it becomes. Currently only clear polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are economically viable, though DETECTA R-PET food trays from Contour break this mold and are made of up to 100% reclaimed material.

Recycling packaging with radically improved economic and quality design will create a circular system. It starts with you choosing packaging materials that are economically recyclable.

Innovate = source new materials, like home compostable

We not only need to innovate and source new materials to use for packaging, we also need to innovate away from particular packaging designs such as items that are too small, have too many layers, and soft plastics which cannot be recycled via road side collection.

Plans are currently in place for New Zealand to maximise the material recovery of plastics and future sorting looks to occur in five potential streams that will be effective in achieving this: Clear PET, Coloured PET, Natural HDPE, Coloured HDPE, and polypropylene (PP). For this to happen, it is important that kiwis collaborate to create a culture where the correct materials used in packaging design are used. 

With the focus being back on “recycling plastic well”, it is important that we don’t continue to overlook and innovate compostable packaging solutions, while keeping in mind that “not all compostable packaging is made equal”.

Eliminate = remove packaging where possible

As we work together to collaboratively create a “reusables culture” where non-essential plastic is eliminated and circular plastics are adopted, we need to look across the entire supply chain to deliver functional, environmental and financial savings to businesses. As we make the shift, the majority of packaging will become more expensive, ultimately impacting the end consumer. To prevent this from happening, companies will need to become smarter at looking across the entire supply chain to gain efficiencies and cost advantage to offset these higher packaging costs.

As consumer expectations for the introduction of sustainable packaging intensify, it is important to not make uninformed, hasty decisions to move away from plastics, falling foul of “plastic panic”. A common mistake, producers have decided to move away from using plastic to an alternative biodegradable product packaging material that was more detrimental, causing significant consumer backlash.  Mainly communicated through social media platforms, this can impact your brand value, share price and consumer trust. Again, not all compostable packaging is created equal, so look for certified HOME compostable products that are made with sustainably sourced materials.

Elimination is integral to a circular system in New Zealand.

How can you know what to do? Where do you start? 

Creating a circular economy for plastic packaging that works in New Zealand by 2025 is not a simple task. Sustainable Business Network (SBN) recently ran a Masterclass series launching Circulate, Innovate, Eliminate. Finding a starting place to know what to do can be the hardest part. The below decision tree from SBN can provide you with a great place to begin:

1. Can you Eliminate or Reuse?

Can you Eliminate or Reuse? Creating a circular economy for plastic packaging that works in New Zealand by 2025. SBN. Jan 2020.

2. Can you use recyclable packaging?

Can you use recyclable packaging? Creating a circular economy for plastic packaging that works in New Zealand by 2025. SBN. Jan 2020.

3. In-home

In-home. Creating a circular economy for plastic packaging that works in New Zealand by 2025. SBN. Jan 2020.

4. Out-of-home

Out-of-home. Creating a circular economy for plastic packaging that works in New Zealand by 2025. SBN. Jan 2020.

We need to recycle, and we need to do it well

It’s not so much about eliminating plastic all together, it’s about recycling well which in itself can be a complex problem to solve. The correct type of plastic and packaging needs to be sourced and designed and to do this well, your entire supply chain and distribution needs to be understood – while keeping the end-consumers pocket in mind. 

Collaborating to create a culture where us kiwis adopt and educate both producers and consumers on the importance of Circulate, Innovate, Eliminate is the key to creating a sustainable circular recycling system in New Zealand by 2025.

If you are unsure where to begin in your journey to creating a circular system for your company’s supply chain, Contour has over 20 years’ experience of implementing the latest sustainable packing trends to New Zealand producers, lead direct from Europe. 

Talk to our team today about packaging options to suit your business – and the environment.



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