7 questions to assess the circularity of packaging: production, use and end-of-life

May 31, 2023

In a new paper published in the Journal of Waste Management, four scientists from Brunel University London, Politecnico di Milano, University of Southern Denmark and Wageningen University & Research remind us that circularity is not necessarily synonymous with sustainability. Therefore, striving to achieve circularity will not always guarantee a sustainable outcome.

A product-centric circularity scorecard

As an example of a meaningful and practical approach, the four researchers propose a product-centric circularity scorecard that captures aspects likely to demonstrate a product's environmental sustainability. It is based on 7 simple questions covering the life cycle of a product: production, use and end-of-life. This "common sense" approach resembles the waste hierarchy with a simple priority order that holds true in most cases.

Current actions aiming at achieving circularity may be overly focused on superficial effects and losing sight of true circular economy goals” the four researchers argue. “Our aim is to trigger a scientific discussion on how to best combine scientific knowledge and research on the flows of materials, components and products through society to achieve the broader objective of sustainability, while keeping up with the timelines imposed by the pace of business and policy decisions. That is why we are making a plea for meaningful circularity goals, to avoid that business or policy decisions involuntarily contribute to cementing policy and infrastructure that do not contribute to true sustainability”, they conclude.