Packaging and circular economy: paper and cardboard for a more sustainable future

Everything related to packaging assumes an increasingly central role in the context of the so-called circular economy. This industrial sector, through the choices and research on materials, has in fact a fundamental weight on the practices of consumption, recycling and reuse of resources.

Comieco – National Consortium for the Recovery and Recycling of Cellulosic-Based Packaging – took stock of the situation and recently published the research “New consumption models and the redesign of packaging: the choice of sustainable materials in the era of circular economy “.

Bio-based materials in the future of packaging

Using raw materials in a sustainable way for the planet remains the key target of the industry of the third millennium. Taking advantage of renewable resources and promoting the recovery of materials after consumption are the tools to achieve this goal.

The best opportunity that the packaging sector will have to take advantage of in the near future is the one offered by bio-based materials (bio-based), with which it is possible to design biodegradable, compostable packaging made with renewable resources. In addition to the already known materials such as cellulose pulp, bagasse and bio-plastics, innovative materials such as nanocellulose are conquering the market.

Nanocellulose can be used, for example, to make additives and coatings that make paper and cardboard packaging waterproof. This application is making its way particularly in the food packaging sector, which is committed to the gradual elimination of plastic. The global demand for nanocellulose is growing strongly: if its amount  was 65 million dollars in 2015, it is now estimated that it will reach 530 million in 2021.

60% of Italian paper production uses recycled fibers

The Comieco document has also analyzed the solutions that the Italian paper industry is adopting to create sustainable packaging capable of favoring collection and recycling.

The data are encouraging: thanks to the development of urban paper and cardboard collection, which has reached the quota of 3.5 million tons per year, today almost 60% of the national paper production uses recycled fibers. This statistic places Italy in first place in Europe for paper recycling.

A world in constant evolution

The world of packaging is going through a period of strong evolution. The redesign of the packs is inspired by the principles of eco-design and the use of sustainable materials from renewable and recyclable raw materials. This evolution mainly involves the paper sector, which has always been able to count on the “natural” sustainability of cellulose.

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