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Ambitious policy needed to drive packaging innovation

With a stream of innovative packaging solutions in development, packaging industry groups have urged the EU to take a more long-term and ambitious approach to the circular economy.

With a stream of innovative packaging solutions in development, packaging industry groups have urged the EU to take a more long-term and ambitious approach to the circular economy.

Packaging is seen a key part of the circular economy concept, with leading companies increasingly looking to create closed-loop systems for packaging and developing new innovative packaging solutions.

Innovative solutions

Recent notable packaging innovations include a novel polyvinyl alcohol polymer developed by Birmingham-based Aquapak Polymers that is both 100 per cent recyclable and 100 per cent biodegradable. 

The non-toxic polymer, which can replace conventional plastic film packaging, biodegrades quickly in anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities and is fully dissolvable in water treatment processes, meaning that it can be remoulded into pellets for remanufacturing or disposed of cleanly in food waste. 

Meanwhile, Waitrose has become the first supermarket in the UK to launch food packaging made in part from food waste. 

Further recent innovations in the US include edible food packaging made from milk protein and an ExxonMobil-led plastics manufacturing breakthrough that could be 50 times more energy efficiency than conventional processes.

Packaging coalition

To help drive future innovation, a coalition of 38 packaging industry groups across Europe has called on the EU to use its forthcoming circular economy policies to strengthen the legal framework for extended producer responsibility (EPR) and used packaging.

The coalition represents a number of consumer brands, packaging manufacturers and industry associations, including the European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN).

EUROPEN chairman, Martin Reynolds, said: “Packaging plays a central role in a circular economy by optimising resource use and minimising product waste. 

“We call on the EU to recognise its cross-sectoral function by preserving a full life-cycle approach in legislation, since packaging is intrinsically connected to the product it contains and its value chain.”

It is currently unclear what whether the UK will have to comply with the circular economy package following the result of the EU referendum.