Measuring the Circular economy of multi-layers plastic packaging

Main Presenter: Kiyan Vadoudi 

Co-Authors: Vincent Verney

‘Zero waste program for Europe’ (European Commission, 2014) and ‘Closing the loop action plan for the Circular Economy’ (EC (European Commission), 2015) are two recent strategies in the European Union (EU) about transition towards a more sustainable society. To move towards a more sustainable development, it is necessary to minimize the use of materials in the design stage, to find new materials as alternatives to fossil-based ones but also to reclaim as much as possible material value through effective recycling. Plastic, especially multi-layers plastic packaging is one of the most important domains that still can be improved within the circular economy. Europe is the second largest producer of plastic materials, responsible for 20% of the world production and packaging applications are the largest application sector, representing 39.6% of the total plastics demand (Plastics Europe, 2015). However, the problem is that all these plastics end up as waste.

In order to monitor multi-layers plastic packaging waste treatment management, suitable indicators are needed. In the current policies, most indicators are situated at the macro level and fewer indicators are situated at the micro-level. From those in micro-level, some indicators focusing on impact assessment like recyclability benefit rate (RBR) indicator, (Huysman et al., 2015), which is based on an LCA-approach (Life Cycle Assessment) (Klöpffer, 1997). Some others are focusing on product and component and material like the Material Circularity Indicator (MCI) (MacArthur, 2013) uses information on mass (virgin and recycled materials and waste) and product lifespan in one index system, which only are evaluating the circularity of products components or materials.

What missing in these indicators are:

  1. A trade-off between circularity measurement indicators with impact assessment indicators especially the trade-off between LCA and material circularity,
  2. A lack of industry-specific indicators which may hinder the adaptation of CE.

Considering the facts outlined above, and lack of specific CE indicator in multi-layers packaging domain, we do believe that it is necessary to have an indicator that could be able to support and calculate both circularity and functionality adapted to plastic domain.

Hence, the objective of this paper is to propose a new indicator that considers the use of Material Circularity Indicator (MCI) as the ratio for material circularity combined with LCA to consider the ratio of the environmental benefits that can be obtained from recycling/reuse a product, over the environmental burdens related to production from virgin resources.

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