A constructive and practical check list for EPR schemes and stakeholders to work through on their journey to making packaging waste materials circular come at a critical moment, as EPR schemes look to meet higher recycling targets and align with other legislation.
Extended User Responsibility (EPR) schemes play a substantial role in the collection, sorting and recycling of post-consumer products. The Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging (CEFLEX) project, a collaboration of over 180 European companies, associations and organisations, believes these schemes are well positioned to be a key enabler and coordinator of the circular economy.
The CEFLEX ‘Criteria for Circularity’ have been developed as a constructive and practical check list for EPR schemes and stakeholders to work through on their journey to making packaging waste materials circular. They come at a critical moment, as EPR schemes look to meet higher recycling targets and align with other legislation driving changes to how packaging waste is collected, sorted and recycled to be used again.
The criteria are a basis for further discussion and development in four pillars: operational, financial, communication and governance. These pillars connect and build on work from the Consumer Goods Forum and others, adding further perspectives for flexible packaging. The criteria are part of a long-standing CEFLEX dialogue on EPR, which is vital to making flexible packaging circular, sustainable and economically viable, it says.
“In a circular economy, all materials need to be captured, recycled and used in a wide range of sustainable end markets – independent of cost and recycling targets,” says Graham Houlder, project coordinator of CEFLEX. “EPR systems designed to deliver circular materials and funded accordingly, will help create the conditions to allow all parts of the value chain to make the changes necessary to go circular,” he added.
Welcoming the criteria, Joachim Quoden of EPR industry body EXPRA said “Organisations with specialist insights and a critical mass of value chain participation can help stakeholders led by EPR boost what is collected, sorted and recycled to be used again and again. Flexible packaging is a challenging area where we need to bring the relevant partners and innovations to the table, and here CEFLEX can be an important part of the solution”.
Insights to support EPR schemes on flexible packaging include CEFLEX design guidelines which can be used as a basis for eco-modulation, options on specifications for sorting centres, mass flow and financial modelling on collection and sorting and multi-country compositional analysis results.
“These can help EPR front runners looking to fine tune their latest developments in sorting and recycling. Or give those yet to collect flexible packaging the knowledge to set up and optimise systems based on best practice and learning from others,” says CEFLEX consultant Mike Jefferson, who has been closely involved in developing criteria and sourcing feedback from schemes across Europe.
The criteria have been developed with brand owners, EPR schemes and the entire flexible packaging value chain through several months of feedback sessions and are now available publicly for the first time.