The Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP) is a Think and Do Tank based in Wuppertal, Germany. Committed to promoting a good life for all, CSCP collaborates extensively with businesses, policymakers, partner organizations, and civil society. Through its projects and activities, CSCP actively drives the vision of a better quality of life for everyone.

In the MERLIN project, CSCP plays a pivotal role in leading stakeholder engagment processes and sharing best practices aimed at enhancing the circularity of plastic packaging among stakeholders. It actively engages stakeholders in transitioning towards a circular packaging waste value chain.

In this context, CSCP has developed “Guidelines on increasing the recyclability and circularity of plastic packaging: Learnings from collected good practices.” This comprehensive report showcases effective strategies for improving both the recyclability and recycling rate of multi-layer packaging. It offers valuable insights for various stakeholders, including the industry, political actors, waste management services, and others.

It highlights the role of circular economy principles in addressing the challenge of low recycling rates for multi-layer packaging and features exemplary practices in advancing circular economy approaches, including circular design, circular business models, corporate social responsibility (CSR), consumer engagement, and improved waste management and policy innovation. Stakeholder-specific recommendations for improving circularity provide food for thought and action to drive innovation in the packaging industry.

Key recommendations to enhance the recyclability and sustainability of multi-layer packaging, are to prioritize recyclable materials compatible with current systems, minimize the use of complex composites, and shift towards mono-material alternatives. Circular packaging design pathways should include compostable and reusable solutions, considering the entire lifecycle of the packaging. Engaging suppliers to ensure responsible sourcing and transparency, utilizing bio-based materials, and following standardized certification processes for recyclability or biodegradability are essential. Clear labeling with recycling codes and providing disposal instructions can aid in maintaining recycling standards, encourage correct recycling practices, and promote consumer awareness and education on sustainable waste management.

Furthermore, addressing the consumer awareness gap about packaging made from recycled materials through educational campaigns is essential. These campaigns should highlight the benefits and durability of sustainable packaging, providing clear and user-friendly product information with visual cues and incentives for proper recycling. Simplifying packaging design to minimize components and avoid laminations can further encourage correct recycling practices and enhance consumer engagement.

Improving waste management and recycling infrastructure is crucial, particularly for multi-layer packaging. This includes supporting advanced technologies like AI, robotics, and VIS cameras to enhance sorting accuracy and efficiency. Encouraging packaging manufacturers to adopt Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes ensures better end-of-life management of products. Addressing the higher cost of recycled plastics through standardized certifications and incentives can increase demand. Establishing clear and consistent policies to instill confidence in the recycling market and incorporating environmental costs into the pricing of virgin materials can enhance the competitiveness of recycled materials, supporting the transition to a circular economy.

MERLIN is a research project supported by several leading public and private organizations, offering innovative solutions to increase the quality and rate of recycled plastic materials from multi-layer packaging waste. One of the MERLIN project’s objectives is to facilitate knowledge sharing among stakeholders on best practices for increasing the rate and quality of multi-layer packaging recycling.

In line with its objective of sharing and dissseminating good practice of increasing circularity im multi-layer packaging value chain, the MERLIN webinar held on March 27 where th report “Guidelines on increasing the recyclability and circularity of plastic packaging: Learnings from collected good practices” was disseminated among stakeholders. The goal of this webinar was to share good practices covering following topics:

  • Circular design: Packaging that is fit for purpose, easily recyclable, consists of secondary or renewable materials, sortable in the recycling system, separable, and makes positive contributions to the environment and circularity.
  • Consumer education and policy recommendations: Insights from consumer sorting and waste separation behavior in packaging, and lessons for consumer education and policy.
  • Material recovery: High-quality recovery of materials that increase purity and eco-efficiency.
  • Recyclability of packaging: Assessing if packaging is designed to be recyclable.

Participants in the webinar benefited from:

  • Gaining access to the latest knowledge on circular packaging design, material recovery, consumer education, and policy from experts at Ioniqa Technologies B.V., ITENE, Interseroh+ GmbH, and CSCP.
  • Engaging in roundtable discussions with our expert speakers to learn about the challenges and opportunities of packaging circularity from various perspectives.
  • Participating in interactive workshops with other participants to shape recommendations for increasing the recyclability and circularity of packaging.
  • Enhancing their skills and networking with members of the MERLIN packaging club.

The feedback collected during the webinar regarding recommendations for increasing circuliarty of multi-layer packaging, was used to further refine and strengthen the recommendations included in the report. You can access the report here through the MERLIN project website as well as the CSCP´s own website.