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Carolina Oliveira
7 months ago
Moving to a Circular Economy: Ecological Packaging and the Recycling Model


Following our last article about the circular economy model (click here to read), another topic surrounding it is food packaging. And the connection between packaging and plastics is well known, mostly now as people live the food delivery reality, with snacks arriving at our doorsteps almost daily. But can we somehow control the packaging that comes from restaurants? Can we push the change to more sustainable materials?


Over 99 % of plastics are made of chemicals obtained from fossil fuels, and these raw materials are non-renewable and highly pollutant. And its production is not slowing down, but the opposite. In 2019, traditional plastics reached 368 million metric tons, almost 2,5 % more than the previous year. Destined for packaging, synthetic fabrics, polycarbonate for thousands of uses in the consumer industry, plastic is everywhere — and quite energy-intensive, with a huge carbon footprint and a threat to climate change.


The rise of plastics production has launched an alert over governments and companies due to global warming, increasing policies for the reduction of the use of traditional plastics, and the development of recycling initiatives. The European Union has a Waste Directive with plans for the countries to follow: By 2025, 50 % of all plastic packages must be recycled, and 55 % by 2030. In Finland, where the current recycling of plastics stands by 25 %, the policies are not just to recycle but also to reuse and replace.


The new eco plastics follow the circular economy model, from raw material to the recycling and reusing of materials. One of those companies is Woodly, a Finnish tech company pioneer in wood-based plastics. Currently, the products are 40 to 60 % bio-based and 100 % recyclable. The products are not biodegradable, but the production is carbon neutral. "Traditional plastic production process creates carbon dioxide. Whereas when Woodly material is created, no extra carbon dioxide is released to the Earth. Trees take carbon dioxide out of the air and bind it. When these trees are used to make Woodly material, the same carbon dioxide stays bound in our product." says Maria Aksela, marketing manager of Woodly.


And thanks to many factors, Finns are very aware of the challenges posed by plastic. Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, released in 2018 a Plastic Road Map covering aspects of recycling in different scenarios, from industries to households and stores. Cafés and restaurants are investing in recycling, plastic reduction, and more bio-based tools and packages.


Holmen Coffee is one of those small businesses investing in ecological solutions. Its carbon-neutral coffee bags can be reused as plant pots or discarded in plastic collection containers. Also, their takeaway cups and lids are 100 % recyclable. Lena Brockmüller, the roastery's main administrator, believes that every new company needs to think about sustainability to inform customers better. "People should not just read the headlines, but there should be more information in depth. For example, what does "organic" really mean? Information and genuine facts are the key here," she affirms.


Undoubtedly, consumers must be aware of their impact when choosing a product, as it creates a demand for more sustainable production methods. As Maria Aksela from Woodly concludes, "to use ecological packaging material, to not over package, to make clear instructions on the product so that consumers know how to recycle it" are some of the essential aspects companies must pay attention to in this new economy. And, of course, consumers must be an active and determinant part by choosing good products and keeping in mind the 3 R's: reuse, reduce, recycle.



Photo: cottonbro on Pexels

Edited 7 months ago
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