Track 1.5. Packaging Systems for the Circular Economy

Session owners:
Natalia Lumby and Dr. Jonghun (Jay) Park
Toronto Metropolitan University, Canada

The Global Resources Outlook (2019) released by the UN indicates that by 2050 there will be a doubling of our natural resource needs. This is the same year by which the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. This is pronounced in fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) packaging as volumes are growing along with increases in population and consumption globally. Packaging plays a critical role in protecting products and ensuring successful delivered to the consumer. However, packaging also constitutes the portion of the product experience which creates immediate waste. There is much room for progress in this regard. We have already seen improvement in recycling. Globally, recycling technologies continue to improve, with advances in recycling, sorting and materials technologies. Unfortunately, recycling will not create a complete solution for packaging waste (Brouwer, 2020), as our consumption of natural resources continues to outpace our ability to replace them (Bocken et al., 2014). 

Packaging exists within a complex system, serving the needs of a number of stakeholders. These systems are highly interconnected and shift dynamically with changes in stakeholder demands. It is difficult to anticipate system level impact from individual system component changes. For example, in the beverage sector, reusable packaging saw a steep decline as companies began to favour lightweight plastic alternatives (Babader et al., 2016). Today these reusable systems are returning with new companies, like Loop, emerging in the reuse space for personal goods in North America. However, it is not known if there will be a positive sustainable impact, as the system relies on consumers to reuse packages many times, which is a new buying behaviour for participating product categories. 

This thematic session investigates areas such as: 

– Reusable packaging systems and the supply chain 

– Reusable packaging systems and the consumer 

– Life Cycle Assessment of product packaging solutions 

– Alternative packaging materials for sustainability

 – Zero waste, package-free solutions 

– Supply chain competencies for the circular economy