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A closer look: the plastic packaging chain

Further closing the plastic packaging chain is a major challenge for the European and Dutch ambitions to realise the transition towards a closed raw materials chain and a circular economy.

The collection and recycling of plastic packaging waste from households has increased significantly since 2008. At the same time, costs are going up and the quality of recycled materials is still insufficient to compete with virgin raw materials. The realisation of a plastic chain that is as closed as possible, both in terms of raw materials and in an economic sense, is therefore still a distant goal.

DThis is why the KIDV conducted a study in 2017 to map the plastic chain in an integral manner for the first time. The study shows that the chain parties can take measures in seven key areas in order to further close the plastic packaging chain. What measures can one take as part of the packaging development process?

For points 1, 4 and 7: design for recycling
This can be realised through design for recycling and by taking the waste phase into account during the design phase. More information can be found under “Choice of material and packaging process.” Furthermore, you can also use an overview from the KIDV that contains useful tips pertaining to design for recycling.

For points 2 and 3: use more recycled plastic for new packaging materials
By using more recycled plastics in packaging materials, you help increase the demand for recycled plastic and stimulate the increase of the supply. When the market for recycled plastics grows, this will also stimulate businesses to make the separation process for packaging waste more efficient and improve the quality of the output. This, in turn, stimulates innovation in the field.

For points 5 and 6: provide information and clear disposal instructions for consumers
In municipalities that use source separation, consumers play an important role in the separation of packaging waste. If consumers properly separate their packaging waste, source separation can be an effective method. Clearer waste streams are easier to separate for sorters, which provides an excellent starting point for recycling.

In practice, it is not always clear to consumers how they should separate their packaging waste. You can make this easier for them with logical material choices and intuitive designs and by providing clear information and disposal instructions on the packaging itself.

Meer informatie

Plastic chain research

As part of its plastic chain research, the KIDV (the Netherlands Institute for Sustainable Packaging) has also developed several useful knowledge products. Click here for more information about the research and these knowledge products.

Circular packaging design

In this short video, researcher Bjorn de Koeijer (University of Twente) explains that there are only a few design models and tools in which sustainability is a key factor. His research has resulted in three points of improvement with which to make this theme a more integral part of the design process, e.g. by having multiple disciplines work together as a single team.

Circular design class for packaging designers

Together with its partners, the KIDV also offers workshops about various themes related to sustainable packaging. One of these workshops is the Circular Design Class, which the KIDV offers in collaboration with CIRCO. During this workshop for packaging designers, the central question is this: how can you make your packaging circular, while also allowing your business to profit? The circular economy is a system in which products and packaging materials have a longer lifecycle and are reused and recycled. This calls for both new packaging designs and new business models. How can you cope with this development as a packaging designer? How can you bring the importance of circular design to the attention of your colleagues and clients? During this one-day workshop, you will gain new knowledge and insights pertaining to circular design. You can then immediately apply this knowledge to your own case and those of other participants. You put theory into practice straight away and by the time you leave, you will have acquired concrete new ideas.

If you are interested in this workshop, please let us know via email. Once enough people have signed up, we will schedule the workshop and contact you with more information.

Packaging throughout the years

The “Packaging throughout the years" timeline presents an overview of the developments and innovations related to packaging from 100 BC until today. It also contains information about the measures that have been taken since the 1990s to make packaging materials more sustainable.

Recommended viewing: "The donut economy"

This is an interesting broadcast on the ‘donut economy’. Kate Raworth explains why the focus on GDP growth, neoclassical economic theories and neoliberalism are no longer adequate in the twenty-first century. Instead, she advocates the economic design of distributive and regenerative systems.

Recommended reading: "The new plastics economy: catalysing action"

Een interessante uitzending is ‘De donut-economie’. Kate Raworth legt hierin uit waarom de focus op BBP-groei, neoklassieke economische theorie en neoliberalisme in de 21e eeuw niet meer voldoen. In plaats daarvan pleit zij voor het economisch ontwerpen van distributieve en regeneratieve systemen.


Below are several examples of product-packaging combinations that positively contribute to the realisation of a circular economy. They are produced using recycled materials and can be recycled after use to make new packaging materials.

Bottle made from 100% r-PET
Bar-le-Duc, a bottler of water products, sells its products in bottles that are made entirely of recycled Polyethylene terephthalate (r-PET). Read more here.

Salad in r-PET packaging
Packaging producer Hordijk offers a variety of packaging materials, including thermoformed materials made from PET. Read more here.

Padding material made of recycled paper and cardboard

The padding material used in the Karopack buffer bags consists of recycled industrial paper and cardboard waste. These bags are used as buffers in packaging materials during transport. By using recycled paper and cardboard, less virgin buffer material is needed. The bags can be reused several times and disposed of as waste paper, so they can be recycled once more. Read more here.

Recycling of packaging materials by consumers: return empty packaging materials
Lush stimulates the recycling of packaging materials by consumers with a number of special promotions. Read more here.

Containers and buckets for non-food products made from recycled PP
Jokey is a supplier of plastic trays, buckets and containers. The company offers a range of packaging materials, some of which consist of 100% recycled polypropylene (PP). Read more here.

Bottles for cleaning agents made from 100% recycled PE
Marcel’s Green Soap produces cleaning agents that are stored in bottles made from 100% recycled polyethylene (PE). Read more here.