RECOUP launches its inaugural “Reusability by Design” guidance

plastic packaging

Plastics resource efficiency and recycling charity, RECOUP, has launched the inaugural edition of its “Reusability by Design” guidance to assist stakeholders with the “design of reusable plastic packaging”.

RECOUP says the guidance aims to ensure designs meet the needs of the value chain from packaging manufacturers, packers/fillers, brands, retailers, consumers and service providers through to waste management companies.

The guidance has been produced as a workstream of the UKRI-funded TRACE (Technology-enabled Reusable Assets for a Circular Economy) project, led by Pragmatic, with RECOUP, The University of Sheffield, Topolytics, AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) and Ken Mills Engineering as partners.

Project TRACE aims to address some of the challenges that currently prevent large-scale reuse, which RECOUP says are consumer perception of reusable packaging, traceability of packaging and the lack of design guidance available.

Based on research, surveys, workshops and interviews, RECOUP says the guidance highlights the need for collaboration alongside consideration” of the whole value chain’s needs when designing reusable packaging.

RECOUP says the main challenges identified to the adoption of reusable packaging on a large scale to be addressed by design were ensuring customer uptake, implementation cost and traceability.

Reuse represents a key element of achieving the circular economy for packaging.

The guidance details several technical characteristics that “must be considered” at the design stage of reusable packaging, including material choice and durability, size and shape of the packaging, visibility of the product, closure type, tamper evidence requirements and decoration.

However, RECOUP says choices on these characteristics must be made in collaboration with an acknowledgement of consumer needs, food safety, washing and cleaning requirements and impact on transportation.

The design implications on end-of-life scenarios for the packaging, when it leaks or leaves the reuse system must also be taken into consideration, the guidance emphasises. In addition, the guidance includes a review of how tracking technologies have been used within reuse systems, for food and drink produced by The University of Sheffield.

Commenting on the guidance, Katherine Fleet, Head of Sustainability and Circularity at RECOUP, said: “Reuse represents a key element of achieving the circular economy for packaging and while we have seen the implementation of several small-scale trials of reuse systems, large-scale implementation has not yet been achieved.

“It is hoped that these guidelines, which reflect stakeholder’s views, along with the wider findings of project TRACE, will assist with progress towards a world where reuse is more commonplace for packaging.”

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