The community of organisations working together towards a more sustainable economy and society
Packaging is one of the biggest ecological problems of our time. The volumes produced annually, some 170 kg per capita in the European Union, overload current treatment capacities, leading to litter, overflowing landfills, waste in oceans and rivers and greenhouse gases. To tackle this problem, we urgently need to shift to a more circular economy.
With this project, The Shift, the Belgian sustainability focal point, wants to tackle this ecological issue by focusing on removing the barriers that prevent organisations from making more sustainable packaging choices.
In a first phase, we examined the problems that players in the packaging world encountered in order to opt for more sustainable packaging. We then prioritised the three biggest problems, which were inconsistent evaluations of circularity, siloed knowledge and confusing consumer information and education.
In the second phase, we organised brainstorming sessions with stakeholders from the packaging world and launched three pilot projects from these: The Eco-Evaluation, The Consumer Education and The Packaging Ecosystem.
From the interviews with stakeholders of the entire packaging value chain, we were able to identify nine challenges that prevented them from making more sustainable choices. For three of the challenges, a solution has been formulated through three pilot projects.
Within the project The Eco-evaluation we developed two new methods to measure the impact of packaging. This allows organisations to compare multiple packaging options (more quickly than with the LCA method) and to make a more conscious choice for the more sustainable options.
The Consumer Education project is working on a communication campaign with contextualised messages to dispel misconceptions about sustainable packaging. We are working on this together with OVAM, UAntwerpen and UGent.
Within the project The Packaging Ecosystem we are working on the establishment of an ecosystem around sustainable packaging, with the aim of facilitating and accelerating the creation of sustainable solutions by better sharing information and connecting organisations.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
There is already a lot of knowledge about sustainability in the packaging chain, but it does not always reach every stakeholder. Putting more effort into the better dissemination and sharing of all this knowledge throughout the chain would significantly promote the transition to a circular economy.
There are still many misconceptions about sustainable packaging among both consumers and producers. For example, people still cling too much to the idea that recycling is enough to be circular. The government, all chain partners and consumers must work together to eliminate these misconceptions.
The packaging world is a politically sensitive landscape where opposing interests, past conflicts and ingrained ideas form a brake. That is why a neutral party is needed at the head of the ecosystem to facilitate the transition to a more circular economy.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
The three pilot projects launched will be further developed under the guidance of their respective responsible organisations. The results of those projects will then hopefully inspire many new initiatives.