Exploring a circular packaging model

circular packaging model

Modern Retail spoke to Gary Orr, of XDS Brands/Perigord, to explore retail packaging sustainability issues and the benefits of a circular packaging model…

1. How important is it for retailers to create a circular packaging model and what are the benefits of this for both retailers and customers?

When considering the importance and benefits of a circular packaging model, specifically in the UK market, the following points are particularly relevant:

  • Environmental Regulations: The UK has stringent environmental regulations and waste management targets – by adopting a circular packaging model, retailers can align with these regulations, demonstrate compliance and avoid potential penalties or reputational risks associated with non-compliance. Consideration must also be given to the new EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility), which is a regulatory framework that shifts the responsibility for managing packaging waste from local authorities to producers, importers, and retailers; in the UK, EPR schemes are being implemented or expanded to ensure that companies take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products, including packaging.
  • Growing Consumer Demand: Consumers in the UK are increasingly concerned about environmental sustainability and expect retailers to adopt eco-friendly practices. As such, embracing circular packaging can help retailers cater to this demand, enhance their brand reputation, and attract environmentally conscious customers.
  • Government Initiatives: The UK government has introduced initiatives and policies to promote a circular economy. By proactively implementing circular packaging models, retailers can participate in government-led programs, gain access to incentives, and demonstrate their commitment to national sustainability goals.
  • Waste Reduction Targets: The UK has set ambitious targets for reducing packaging waste and increasing recycling rates. Circular packaging practices can aid retailers in achieving these targets by focusing on packaging design that reduces waste, promotes recyclability, and encourages reuse.
  • Circular Economy Infrastructure: The UK and Ireland have developed infrastructure and initiatives to support the circular economy, such as recycling facilities, material recovery facilities, and extended producer responsibility schemes. Retailers can leverage these existing systems to optimise their packaging processes, facilitate material recovery, and contribute to a more circular system.
  • Consumer Loyalty and Market Differentiation: UK consumers increasingly prioritise sustainable brands and products – by adopting circular packaging models, retailers can differentiate themselves in the market, attract environmentally conscious consumers, and foster customer loyalty and satisfaction.

It’s important for retailers across the UK to recognize the unique market dynamics, regulatory landscape, and consumer expectations in the region while implementing circular packaging models. By doing so, retailers can align with local sustainability priorities, gain a competitive advantage, and contribute to the circular economy efforts. 

2. What are the key considerations that retailers must take into account when making sure their packaging plays its part in delivering on environmental goals?

There are many variables that retailers should consider when ensuring that packaging plays its part in delivering on environmental goals, but to name a few, retailers should focus on material selection, package design, life cycle assessment, education for consumers and technological advancements. 

Retailers should carefully evaluate the materials used in their packaging; opt for materials that are renewable, recyclable, compostable, or made from recycled content, and prioritise lightweight materials that reduce resource consumption and transportation emissions. Retailers should focus on packaging designs that minimise waste, optimise space utilisation, and facilitate recycling. Considering innovative designs that use less material, incorporate modular or collapsible features, or utilise refillable or reusable components should be key for retailers moving forward into a more environmentally friendly futurePackaging size is also important when looking at maximising transportation efficiency in the supply chain, with reduced packaging dimensions lowering the environmental impact of shipping and storage while potentially reducing costs for retailers.

Conducting a thorough life cycle assessment helps retailers understand the environmental impact of their packaging throughout its entire life cycle. Consider factors such as raw material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, use, and end-of-life disposal. This assessment can guide decision-making and identify areas for improvement. Use a digital tool to help gather and build the data sets of your packaging portfolio, allowing you to build digital twin environments for informed and empowered decision-making.

Additional factors that play a crucial role in creating a more sustainable future are education and communication between consumers and retailers; providing ‘CLEAR’ information to consumers about the recyclability or proper disposal of packaging materials, as well as education to customers on how to correctly recycle or dispose of packaging can better ensure that the packaging is effectively managed at its end of life.

I would encourage all retailers to embrace technological advancements and innovations in packaging materials, designs, and recycling processes. Stay informed about emerging technologies that can enhance the environmental performance of packaging. Use a digital tool to help gather and build the data sets of your packaging portfolio, allowing you to build digital twin environments for informed and empowered decision-making.

By considering these factors, retailers can ensure that their packaging aligns with environmental goals and contributes to sustainability efforts. It’s important to continuously review and improve packaging practices, staying responsive to evolving consumer preferences, technological advancements, and regulatory changes. You need to act in a way that you wish to be perceived. Brand Equity will continue to give retailers an edge in a highly competitive landscape.

3. How can digital transformations and data play a role in helping businesses to meet their 2025 sustainable packaging targets?

Digital transformations and data play a crucial role in helping businesses meet their 2025 sustainable packaging targets. By leveraging data analytics and insights, businesses can make informed decisions regarding sustainable packaging. Analysing data related to packaging materials, waste generation, recycling rates, and consumer preferences can provide valuable insights to optimise packaging design, identify areas for improvement, and align with sustainability goals. 

Additionally, digital tools and data analytics enable businesses to monitor and report on their progress towards sustainable packaging targets. Real-time tracking of key performance indicators (KPIs) related to packaging waste reduction, recycling rates, and carbon emissions can help businesses stay accountable and make data-driven adjustments to their strategies.

When examining the supply chain, digital transformations allow for enhanced visibility and traceability. By integrating data across the supply chain, businesses can identify opportunities to reduce packaging waste, optimise transportation routes, and improve efficiency, which can result in lower environmental impact and cost savings.

Digital channels provide opportunities to engage and educate consumers about sustainable packaging practices. Businesses can leverage data to personalise messaging, create targeted sustainability campaigns, and inform consumers about the environmental impact of packaging choices. This can drive consumer behaviour change and foster support for sustainable packaging initiatives.

Digital technologies can improve waste management and recycling processes. For example, data can be used to optimise collection routes, monitor recycling rates, and identify areas where recycling infrastructure needs improvement. Digital platforms can also facilitate communication between businesses, waste management providers, and recycling facilities to ensure efficient and effective recycling practices.

Digital transformations and data play a vital role in helping businesses meet their sustainable packaging targets by enabling data-driven decision-making, optimising the supply chain, driving packaging innovation, facilitating collaboration, engaging consumers, improving waste management, monitoring progress, and ensuring regulatory compliance. By harnessing the power of digital technologies and leveraging data, businesses can accelerate their journey towards sustainable packaging practices.

4. How does the XDS Brand Packaging Environmental Assessment Tool work?

The XDS Brand ‘CLEAR’ tool assesses the environmental impact of packaging and your wider portfolio. Here is an overview of how the XDS Brand ‘CLEAR’ tool works:

  • Input Data: Users input specific information about the packaging they want to assess. This may include details such as packaging materials, dimensions, weight, manufacturing processes, transportation distances, and end-of-life options.
  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): The ‘CLEAR’ tool applies Life Cycle Assessment methodologies to analyse the environmental impact of the packaging throughout its life cycle.
  • Environmental Impact Categories: The ‘CLEAR’ tool evaluates the packaging’s impact across different environmental categories, such as carbon emissions, water consumption, energy, and transportation. It quantifies these impacts based on established environmental indicators and data.
  • Comparative Analysis: ‘CLEAR’ allows users to compare different packaging options or scenarios, providing a digital twin for assessment. It provides the ability to assess the environmental impacts of alternative materials, designs, or end-of-life options. This allows businesses to make informed and empowered decisions and identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Results and Recommendations: Once the assessment is complete, the ‘CLEAR’ tool generates reports summarising the environmental impact results. These reports may include visualisations, charts, and graphs to present the data effectively. Additionally, the tool may provide recommendations or suggestions for improving the packaging’s environmental performance based on the assessment outcomes.
  • Continuous Improvement: The ‘CLEAR’ tool can be used iteratively at different stages of the packaging development process. By regularly assessing packaging options and identifying areas for improvement, businesses can strive for continuous optimization and reduction of their environmental impact.

In summary ‘CLEAR’, allows businesses to assess the environmental impact of their packaging through a comprehensive analysis of various life cycle stages. It provides insights, comparative analysis, and recommendations to guide businesses towards more sustainable packaging choices and continuous improvement.

5. What do you think the future will hold for packaging sustainability? Do you expect consumers to continue shopping with businesses that put thought into their environmental impact?

The future of packaging sustainability holds significant potential for positive change. It can be the carrot or the stick approach. 

Consumer awareness and concern about environmental sustainability are expected to continue rising. Consumers are increasingly seeking out businesses that prioritise sustainability, including those that address packaging impact. Consumer demand will continue to drive the adoption of sustainable packaging solutions. Businesses that prioritise environmental impact reduction, including sustainable packaging, are likely to gain a competitive advantage. Consumer loyalty will be influenced by a brand’s commitment to sustainability, and businesses that demonstrate thoughtfulness in their environmental impact will attract and retain customers.

Businesses will continue to seek ways to minimise packaging waste and optimise packaging design to reduce material usage, transportation impacts, and carbon emissions. Lightweighting, right-sizing, and alternative packaging materials will gain prominence. Continued innovation in materials, designs, and recycling technologies will drive the development of more sustainable packaging options. Collaboration among stakeholders, including businesses, researchers, governments, and consumers, will foster the exchange of ideas and accelerate progress in packaging sustainability.

In the coming years governments and regulatory bodies worldwide are likely to introduce more stringent regulations and targets related to packaging waste, recycling, and sustainability. This will encourage businesses to prioritise sustainable packaging practices to comply with evolving regulations and avoid penalties.

The transition towards a circular economy will play a significant role in packaging sustainability. Businesses will increasingly adopt circular packaging models that prioritise reuse, recycling, and recovery of materials. Extended producer responsibility schemes and recycling infrastructure development will further support circular economy initiatives. Additionally, education campaigns and awareness initiatives will continue to play a vital role in informing consumers about sustainable packaging practices and the importance of their choices. Educated consumers will increasingly make purchasing decisions based on a business’s sustainability efforts.

Digital technologies, such as blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), and data analytics, will enhance traceability, transparency, and recycling processes within the packaging industry. These technologies will enable better supply chain management, waste tracking, and consumer engagement.

In conclusion, the future of packaging sustainability looks promising, driven by increased consumer demand, regulatory advancements, innovation, collaboration, circular economy initiatives, technological advancements, packaging reduction, and optimisation. Businesses that prioritise their environmental impact, including sustainable packaging, are likely to enjoy continued consumer support and loyalty. Remember a brand is a promise, consumers support your brand because they align with your brand’s Why – they are investing in your promise. Be very careful not to break your promise…

Gary Orr

Gary Orr is Chief Commercial Officer for XDS Brand and Perigord Life Sciences Solutions.
He has a background in Business Marketing Management from Technological University Dublin and a postgrad in Design Thinking and Innovation from UCD.

He has held roles such as Head of Branding and Packaging for Lidl Ireland and Head of Sun Branding Ireland before taking up the role of CCO at both Perigord Life Science Solutions and XDS Brand, a Tech Mahindra portfolio company that Perigord powers, which recently launched with the creation of 40 new jobs in their Dublin office.

Under the umbrella of XDS, Gary works on providing human-centred and purpose-driven experiences to clients which include innovative brand strategies, creating attractive, functional and sustainable packaging and comprehensive marketing communication solutions.