Circular economy packaging: the smart way to grow

circular economy packaging

At the heart of circular economy packaging lies a truly revolutionizing premise: the industry must go further in its efforts to minimize its environmental impact and suggest a total paradigm change. 

Circular packaging is not just about reusing materials, but a multidisciplinary practice that helps increase resource management, save resources of all types and minimize waste. 

What exactly is circular economy packaging and what are the current possibilities to use it? From our commitment to developing efficient circular economy packaging, at Knauf, we provide this short but exhaustive guide. 

What is circular economy packaging?

Circular economy packaging is one that has had resource management and environmental impacts at all stages during its life cycle. 

As such, its design, production, distribution, use, and recovery all take these into account, seeking to minimize the product’s potential damage through the following:

  • Eco-friendly packaging design
  • Optimizing resource use (materials, energy, water use…)
  • Including end-of-life policies, promoting actions such as reusing, recycling and upcycling initiatives

What is the difference between circular economy packaging and recycled packaging?

It can be argued that circular economy packaging represents an enhancement to recycling schemes. 

In a way, it’s a philosophy and practice that goes further than recycled packaging because it also includes stages in the life cycle of a product that are previous to its end-of-life stage: circular packaging is conceived from its design and production phases to avoid material and energy waste.

As such, it’s also designed to generate worth beyond traditional linear models where recycling is part of waste management. This management may or may not be sustainable: some recycled components are incinerated or used in low-quality applications. Circular economy packaging, on the other hand, generates loops that aim to provide increased worth for all parties involved. 

Technical manual of protective foam in  circular economy

What materials are used in circular packaging?

EPS and EPP: circular packaging 100% recyclable

While plastic recycling has reached unprecedented rates today, the reality is that many types of plastics are not yet easily recyclable. 

On the other hand, circular economy packaging can be made from EPS and EPP, two types of lightweight plastic foams made of 98% air that, additionally, add great protective capabilities to packaging solutions. 

These 100% recyclable plastics can then be included in circular economy models such as Knauf Circular®, which we present further down this article

NEOPS®: Non-Petrosourced packaging

NEOPS® represents an alternative to expanded polystyrene (EPS) that presents the same technical performance but improved sustainability.

Created by Knauf as part of our commitment to sustainable innovation in packaging, it’s made from non-food renewable resources (green waste) and REDcert² certified. Additionally, it reduces the use of fossil raw materials and greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30%.

rEPP and rEPS: recycled packaging

Using recycled EPP and recycled EPS are two other possibilities to develop circular packaging

As such, these materials provide traditional EPS and EPP with a defined content of recycled raw materials. For instance, it’s possible to use rEPS with 20% of recycled material content or other varieties up to rEPS 100%, according to the final application’s needs. 

rEPP and rEPS are yet another initiative undertaken by Knauf’s IDLab, in our constant strive to respond to market trends and demands and include a circular packaging perspective in our production.

Our involvement goes beyond the production and supplying of these materials: we accompany our clients in order to incorporate these materials in their packaging design and production so that their solutions are verified and ready to offer effective protection.

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Circular economy packaging at Knauf 

Knauf Circular® is our program to give expanded polystyrene waste a new life.

Through this program, we go beyond providing recyclable materials for circular economy packaging: we guarantee the waste is collected and correctly treated to be recovered into new polystyrene products.

Because of Knauf Circular®, once circular packaging materials have fulfilled their purpose, they can turn into building insulation, technical parts for industry and agriculture, and many other everyday products. 

In order to do so, we’ve:

  • Involved all interested parties and EPS consumers, from wholesalers to construction contractors, industrial firms, supermarkets, and recycling centers, creating a truly nationwide network.
  • We’ve set up efficient recycling centers where waste is then collected, crushed, and recycled. Thanks to this, offcuts can be recycled into new everyday polystyrene products. 

Our Knauf Circular® thus ensures sustainable management of EPS waste, helping our partners join circular economy packaging policies and reduce waste.

From our eco-design approach to the Knauf Circular® program, we take care of each stage of the production of circular packaging, moving away from linear models and thus building platforms for the future of packaging.

Want to learn more about current circular economy packaging possibilities? Download our free technical manual about expanded foam in the industry and see how we can help you join the circular model.

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