Sustainability in the EU. The Sustainable Management of Plastic Packaging in a Circular Economy

Master's Thesis, 2019

112 Pages, Grade: 5.0=1


Table of Contents



1.0 Introduction
1.1 Rationale Of The Study
1.1.1 Study Objective
1.2.1Research Approach
1.2.3.R coding used for Data Collection For Literature Review
1.2.4.Questionnaires And Interviews

Chapter 2: Literature Review
2.0 The History Of Plastic Packaging
2.0.1 The Benefits Of Plastic Packaging
2.1 Plastic Packaging in The EU
2.1.1The Plastic Family
How Are Plastics Formed?
High Density Polyethylene (HDPE):
Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE):
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET,PETE)
Poly Vinyl Chloride:
2.2 End of Life Management of Plastic Packaging
Methods Used To Dispose Of Plastic Packaging Waste:
2.3 The Circular Economy
2.3.1 Definition of a Circular Economy
2.3.2 The Principles of a Circular Economy
2.3.4 Environmental Benefits of A Circular Economy
Reduced Green House Gas Emission:
Resilient Soil and Land Productivity:
Reduced Raw Material consumption:
Less Negative Externalities:
Better Potential for Economic Growth
Increase in Employment Opportunities
Increase in net material saving:
Creation of New profit opportunities:
Greater security of supply:
New demand for innovative business services:
2.5.1 The European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy:
The Vision of European Strategy on Plastics
Curb Plastic Waste and Littering:
Drive innovation and investment toward circular solutions:
Improve Economics and quality of Plastic Recycling
Harness Global Action
2.5.2 EU Directive on Packaging: Directive (EU) 2015/720 Consumption of Lightweight Plastic Carrier Bags
2.6 Evaluation of EU ’s Strategy on Plastic Overview
2.6.1 Challenges on implementation of Strategy
EU Strategy on Plastic is a non-legislative Strategy:
Disregard for practicality and affordability for SMEs:
No market for recycled plastic:
Desirability Vs. Achievability
Current Innovations ignore major components of plastic supply chain
Design of Packaging
Policies Support Mainly MNCs
Complex Polymers Used In Packaging:
Dependency on Consumers to drive change:
Government Policies and Taxation laws:
High Demand for New Skills:
Insufficient investments for new skill development:

Chapter 3 Analysis from Primary Data Collection
3.1 Keyword and Sentiment Analysis (KWIC) based on R-Coding:
Objective of Data Collection through R-Coding
Changing PDF to Text:
Data Cleaning and Lemmatization
Word cloud formation:
KWIC findings:
Conclusion Based on Keyword analysis of data used for Literature Review:
3.2 Survey Analysis: Survey On Consumer Behavior And How It May Impact Implementation Of EU Policy On Plastic Packaging
Objective of the Survey
Survey Design: Framework of The Question
Conclusion based on the Survey Analysis

Chapter 4 Recommendations and Conclusions
4.1 Overview: Is EU ’s Strategy on Plastic Sustainable?
4.2 Recommendations:
Raising Awareness:
Introduce Incentives to boost Recycling.
Extend the responsibilities of Producers
Set targets to boost uptake of recycled plastic at policy level
Invest on Research and development
Follow up and follow through
4.3 Conclusions


Annex-1 Primary Case Study

Annex 2- Survey Questionnaire

ANNEX 3- Tabulation of Survey Answers



First, I offer my humble and sincere gratitude to my supervisor Dr.Prof. Justyna Berniak-Woźny for the constant encouragement, motivation, and generous guidance and support which helped me overcome many challenges and difficulties that I encountered during my research work for preparing this thesis. I am most grateful to her for imparting knowledge and expertise to me which served as a profound cornerstone to complete the thesis and for being the most supportive and understanding Professor and Supervisor anyone could ask for.

I am also very fortunate to have met many cooperative, kindhearted personalities during my study at Vistula University, who brought out the best in me. To begin with, I am very thankful for the advice, love, support and help given to me by my Professor Tade Daniel Omotosho and his family, Professor Agnieszka Knap-Stefaniuk, Professor Kristof Nowakowski,Professor Mirosław Bojańczyk, Professor Krzysztof Rybiński. I have been very lucky and blessed in all four semesters to have the most amazing professors for all the subjects I took during the whole duration of this course.

Also, a special thanks to my loving parents Dr. Nimananda Rijal and Mangala Timilsinsa Rijal, likewise my little daughter Avana Rijal who sacrificed the love and care of her mother during my studies and also my adoring sister Dr. Prashamsa Bood Rijal, Viktor Bood Rijal and Digvijay Kothari for their constant support.


CE- Circular Economy

EC- European Commission

EU-European Union

HDPE- High Density Polyethylene

KWIC- Keyword in Context

LDPE-Low Density Polyethylene

LE- Linear Economy

MNCs- Multi National Companies

PET/PETE- Polyethylene terephthalate

SMEs- Small and Medium sized Enterprises

GDP-Gross Domestic Product


Today life without plastic seems next to impossible but the mass production of plastic waste only began in the 1950’s. In fact its commercial use outside the military began widely after the Second World War1. And today apart from construction materials2 its production has surpassed all man made materials (World Steel Association (WSA), 2017). According to a study, Global research priorities to mitigate plastic pollution impacts on marine wildlife, by 1988 over 30 million tons of plastic was being produced worldwide and by 2016 the amount of plastic produced had sky rocketed to 335 million tons.3 (Plastics Europe, 2017)

The plastic industry is a very important industry in Europe and it can be found everywhere and over the past five decades the requirement and use of plastic packaging in European nations has grown significantly. According to a report published by the European Commission in 2016 of the total plastic waste that was generated in Europe in 2015, 59 percent of it was plastic packaging4. “The use of plastic has delivered many benefits for consumers and society. Plastic packaged food lasts longer, reducing wastage. Plastic pipes enable clean drinking water supplies. Plastic is used in medical applications such as surgical equipment, drips and blister packs for pills. Due to its light weight, plastic use in vehicles has reduced the carbon dioxide emissions emitted through vehicle use”, (Neal & Andrady, 2009)12 Plastic has been known to be the cheapest most useful and versatile product ever made by man, it is used in all sectors from IT to the medical sector and plastic packaging is the cheapest most efficient form of packaging and is therefore widely used in most industries across the globe, hence creating a huge job market for millions of people worldwide according to study by Association of Plastics Manufacturers in Europe5 the plastic industry gives direct employment to over 1.5 million people in Europe and this industry had a trade balance of approximately 15 billion Euros in 2016.

Also, according to a report by Plastics Europe6, plastics can be considered as key materials for the transition towards a circular economy as it is more resource efficient and helps preserve other resources in every step of a product lifecycle. The report also claims that plastic’s, during the production and use phase plastics offer the biggest resource savings. ”For example, plastic insulation saves 250 times the energy used for it production; thanks to plastic parts, cars have 4 times lower environmental impact and plastic packaging extend significantly the shelve life of food reducing spoilage and waste,” the report said.

So although plastics are causing harm to the environment, “completely stopping their use could destabilize the European Economy in a major way”, keeping this in mind, The European commission adopted the first ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics, on January 16 2018, in an effort to transition towards a more circular economy.

This study looks into the policy and the impact this policy could have on EU nations in their quest to combat plastic waste namely waste caused by plastic packaging and its contribution to EU’s pursuit for a circular economy.

Plastic waste has become a major problem in Europe as the continent generates 25 million tons of plastic waste annually and on an average 31 Kg of plastic packaging waste is produced per person per year and this adds up to 15.8 million tons of plastic waste being generated in the EU annually. However, according to the European Commission only 30 percent of this plastic waste is collected for recycling.

1.1 Rationale Of The Study

1.1.1 Study Objective

Plastics are an important produce in the modern economy, they can also be termed as the pillar materials, in today’s world due to their low cost and unrivalled functionality. However the pollution caused by plastics and mainly plastic packaging is affecting our environment as plastics don’t decompose like other substances and are hence making it difficult to harness the usefulness of plastics while mitigating its drawback is considered a difficult task, this study will evaluate if EU’s policy will be successful at turning plastic packaging from hazardous waste into a value adding resource.

This study will try to answer the following questions:

1. Why the European Strategy for plastic is important?
2. Will this policy fully address the environmental and economic issues of plastic waste?
3. What it’s impact will be on the Economy?
4. Will this strategy help in creating a circular economy (if so how?)
5. How it may change the plastic packaging industry and its value chain?
6. Will the policy help in reaching the goal the use of 100 percent of recyclable plastic packaging by 2030
7. What are the major challenges the policy faces
8. What are the solutions


1.2.1 Research Approach

The research methodology followed in my research was an inductive one as I first began with a specific observation, that produced generalized theories while were conclusions drawn from the research. However, the main weakness of an inductive approach is that it produces generalized theories and conclusions based only on a small number of observations, thereby the reliability of research results being under question, ( (Denzin, 2005) To improve my research on the topic I didn’t merely rely on structured, unstructured interviews but also went ahead and used computer language R for text mining for Data Collection.

1.2.2 Primary Data Collection

Primary data was collected randomly using questionnaires, the questionnaires were formulated in the form of objective and subjective data, these questionnaires were piloted and refreshed as per the feedback from the piloted questions, there were 10 people randomly selected for piloting the questionnaire before dispatching to collect data. There were 15 research questions which were administered online through google survey, The survey was geo-location centric and was emailed to over 200 participants across the European Union through Linkedin, Facebook, Reddit and Twitter of which 110 respondents complied.

To carry out the research and primarily for literature review R-coding was used to scrape and download books, scientific journals, reports and white papers and newspaper articles. This process took a lot time and patience as I had to refine the keywords and search for relevant text accordingly it was a lot of trial and error before I was able to download all the required relevant texts that I was looking for.

Case study: I have also done several case studies on how different companies are adapting to a circular model, although many of them are secondary case studies, I was able to interview Gracon wines and conduct a primary case study on their award winning PET wine recyclable bottles. The case studies I have done were picked at random.

1.2.3. R coding used for Data Collection For Literature Review

In an effort to quantify the research on sustainable management of plastic packaging, I searched for the articles, books and journals on the world-wide-web, using data mining methods though “R’ programming, from various sources like Research Gate and Google Scholar.

The search terms I used were: “Plastic+Packaging+Sustainable Management”, “EU+Sustainable Plastic+Policy”, “Plastic+Management+Circular Economy”, “ Plastic+Business”. I kept changing between these keywords to be able to get quality data related to my study objectives and study questions. I was able to download over 200 articles in research journals, studies published from various parts of Europe, Case studies from Sweden, Finland and Netherlands.

After careful selection of texts, I used r-coding one more time to get general understanding of the key factors I needed to study for my research, the general emotions and sentiments around my research topic to give me a better understanding of how people in the EU felt about plastic packaging waste management.

The data was analysed and articles were used to come up with a general trend and helped pin­point trend setting events, which has helped me sort out my literature for the literature review in a scientific manner and enhanced my research by allowing me to analyse my findings from the data in an efficiently.

1.2.4. Questionnaires And Interviews

Based on the findings from my literature review I have formulated a survey questionnaire which I circulated to various companies, NGO’s and consumers in an effort to generate data related to the study questions and find out the sentiments and opinions of the general public. I also interviewed entrepreneurs on the steps they are taking in the use of plastic packaging in the food and drink sector. As In depth interviews are personal and unstructured interviews, which help to identify the participant’s emotions, feelings, and opinions regarding any particular research subject. The main advantage of personal interviews is that they involve personal and direct contact between interviewer and interviewee, that eliminates non-response rates. Similarly, unstructured interviews offer flexibility in terms of the flow of the interview, thereby leaving room for the generation of conclusions that were not initially meant to be derived regarding a research subject.

As far as data collection tools were concerned, my research methodology involved the use of semi-structured questionnaires, which were used as an interview guide. Some of the questions were prepared, to guide, the interview towards the realization of research objectives, but additional questions were made during the interviews.

1.2.5. Case study

I have also done several case studies on how different companies are adapting to a circular model, although many of them are secondary case studies, I was able to interview Gracon wines and conduct a primary case study on their award winning PET wine recyclable bottles. The case studies I have done were picked at random.

The case study used to identify the impact of plastic packaging and its disposal, the randomly selected companies and countries of EU, these selection are made randomly, the companies reviewed for case study here are: Coca-Cola, Danone, Gracon Wines,

CHAPTER 2: Literature Review

2.0 The History Of Plastic Packaging

Plastic packaging as we know it today is the lightest most versatile and safe means of packing we have. It ’s commercial success depends largely on its flexibility from being a simple film to rigid applications, easy sterilization, impermeability, strength and stability. But where did it all begin?

1800-1900 ’s

Plastic was first unveiled by Alaxandar Parkes in 1862 during the Great International Exhibition7. This new material, called Parkesine was made from cellulose and could be heated and molded to any shape, but it wasn’t till the early 1900’s that we saw the dawn of the first plastic packaging.

A Swiss textile scientist who was looking for ways to make textile stain resistant, came up with the first ever cellophane produced. This clear, impermeable material could be used to package anything as it was fully clear and water resistance.

1930 ’s-1960’s

In 1930, the scotch cellulose tape was invented by a 3M engineer Richard Drew and in 1933 Ralph Wiley accidentally discovered Polyvinylidene Chloride, which was used to protect military equipment and food. In 1946 Tupperware Polyethelyne food containers were developed and instantly became super popular among housewives in the US for its air tight seals which prevented food from going bad. Tupperware and other plastic containers with air tight seals have become the most noteworthy plastic packaging products in human history. In 1946, the spray bottle was introduced to the commercial world and in 1950 the modern day garbage bag was invented, followed by the invention of the zip-seal bags in 1954. In 1959 the first licensed lunch box came into the market and in 1960 the bubble wrap came into existence.

1980 ’s-Present Day

By the 80’s plastic packaging dominated the household market and was used to package everything from food to accessories and electronic items and it was used widely. The invention on of the microwavable trays in 19868 also added to the love for plastic items and in 1996 the dawn of the bagged salad packaging helped reduce food waste and made buying and storing perishables much easier as it increased their shelf life.

In 2000 yogurt started coming in flexible plastic tubes and by 2010 Heinz had come up with the dip and squeeze ketchup packaging allowing consumers to choose whether they wanted to dip or squeeze the condiment.

2.0.1 The Benefits Of Plastic Packaging

Packaging over several hundred years has become an essential part of human life, as we use them to store and preserve our food items and other perishable and non-perishable goods. Food waste has a significantly higher environmental impact, particularly in the form of its carbon footprint, than packaging waste, and plastic packaging one of the most crucial materials used in protecting food from spoiling. This also makes it possible for Entrepreneurs to export their food products to further distances as it ensures longer product shelf life.

Along with making it possible to deliver food around globally it also protects specialist items like various types of makeup, liquids, gels, powders and out-of-season fruit.

So, it is no wonder that plastic packaging is the most common form of packaging used worldwide due to its array of advantages, which mainly include the following :

- Light weight: plastic packaging is lightweight it takes up less space than alternatives like glass and cartons. It makes the loads lighter for carriers like planes and trucks. It therefore, uses fewer resources and takes up less space for transport which means fewer trucks, trains or planes are needed to transport it.
- Hygienic: it keeps products free from contamination. It is particularly useful for food, medical packaging as packaging can be filled and sealed hygienically without any human
- Intervention or contamination.
- Durable: Although Plastic packaging can be very thin, it is strong and lasts for a long time as it doesn’t disintegrate easily and is resistant to very high and extremely low temperatures.
- Versatile: plastic packaging comes in all shapes and sizes, it can also be transformed in various ways, for example it can be blown, injected or thermo-moulded. This makes it the go to material for packaging almost every known product we have in the market from pastes and sauces to electronics and gadgets.
- Safe: As plastic is generally shatter resistant, containers used for packaging do not break during handling, transportation and inside the house. This makes them particularly useful while transporting products from one place to another but also safe for certain environments, such as around children, at the pool, by the beach, in bathrooms, kitchens or on the go. Also, plastic can be sealed shut or moulded into a safety mechanism (e.g. child proof locks on medication) making it a secure means of packaging.
- Recyclable: The rate of recycling and the number of different plastics that are recycled across Europe have been increasing, as it can be recycled umpteen times to form new products.9 10


This chapter aims to introduce plastics and materials used for packaging including renewable raw material based polymers, chemosynthetic polymers in an effort to provide insight into the material and product properties of plastic used for packaging, its production, consumption and options available for their end of life management.


Plastics have made a mark for themselves in various industries like health and pharmaceuticals, auto mobile, agriculture, electrical and electronics, food and many more. Their array of features which allow them to be transformed to suit the kind of packaging required makes them one of them most sought out packaging material in the world. According to a study by Deolitte, the demand for plastic packaging is over 48 million tons per year and its demand continues to rise11.

According to a study by WhaTech channel the global plastic packaging industry which was valued at US$259.65 billion in 2013 is expected to reach US$ 370.25 billion by 2020, its demand is growing at a (Compound Annual Growth Rate) CAGR of 5.2% over the study period from 2014 to 2020. This according to the study is mainly due to the global growth in the middle class population, increased mobility and rapid urbanization.12

Of the total plastic waste generated in the EU forty percent of it was from packaging, making it the most dominant plastic product the Union has to think about when implementing its plastic policy.

2.1.1 The Plastic Family

Although there are various different types of plastics today they all fall under two families, Thermoplastic and Thermosetting.

Thermoplastic – This consists of linear or branched chain polymers that can be softened and remoulded using heat and pressure, without them losing their physical properties a few times like Polystyrene, Polyethylene, Polyvinyl Chloride, and Engineering plastics such as ABS and Polycarbonates

Thermosetting – These are plastics with highly cross linked polymer chains that had hardened in the mould. These plastics cannot be re-softened and remolded again. Formaldehyde, Unsaturated Polyester and Epoxies etc.)

How Are Plastics Formed?

Plastic resins in the past were made from cellulose in plants like cotton, oat hulls (furfural), starch derivatives and oil from seeds. One of the first plastics, phenol formaldehyde resin or Bakelite as we know, was developed by Belgian born American chemist Leo Baekeland in New York in 1907.

Baekeland found that the elimination of phenol using formaldehyde would help him create a substance with high heat resistant properties. Bakelite after its successful production was used as electrical insulators due to their electrical non conductivity and heat resistant properties. It was popularly being used in telephone and radio casings. Although it may sound unconventional this plastic because of its fine appearance was also used to make jewelry and accessories.

Today however, plastics are usually made during the distillation process of crude oil, as crude oil goes through distillation it can form various types of products at various stages plastic is one of them as the distillation process separates the heavy crude oil into groups or fractions of lighter components, which are a mixture of hydro carbon chains of different structure and sizes. Naptha is one such fraction which is used to produce plastics.

Plastics are derived from petro-chemicals like Naptha through polymerization and poly condensation.


Polymerization is process in which relatively small molecules, called monomers, combine chemically to produce a very large chainlike or network molecule, called a polymer. The monomer molecules may be all alike, or they may represent two, three, or more different compounds. (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019).

Process of Polymerization:

These hydrocarbon molecules are heated at a presence of a catalyst at temperatures as high as 850°C to produce monomers like ethylene from ethane. This cracking phase helps break down large molecules in the hydrocarbons to form monomers like ethylene from Ethane C2H4, and propylene from Propane C3H6 Once monomers like ethylene are formed they undergo a process of polymerization.

There are two main types of polymerization:

- Condensation Reaction
- Addition Reaction

Condensation Reaction:

Condensation Reaction polymerization is when two molecules of monomers combine, causing reactions which lead to the breakdown of smaller molecules such as water, an alcohol or acid as byproducts. For instance when monomer one and monomer two both have hydrogen (H) and hydroxyl groups (OH), when they combine with a catalyst, one monomer loses a hydrogen atom while the other loses the hydroxyl group. The hydrogen and the hydroxyl group combine together to make water (H2O).

The electrons that remain form a covalent bond between the monomers forming a long chain of copolymers. Different polymers are made by chains of different kinds monomers each with their own individual properties and characteristics. This variability is what allows for plastics to be shaped and molded into any shape and size as well as meet application requirements such as heat tolerance, chemical resistance, and strength.

Addition Reaction:

Addition reaction is a process in which polymers are formed through simple connection of monomers without reactions which produce a byproduct.

The carbon to carbon double bonds adds to another. The Monomers will continue to react with the monomer at the end of the chain until the reactive component completely terminated in the reaction. There are two types of reactions in addition reaction in disproportionation and dimerization.

In disproportionation, a hydrogen atom at a carbon atom α to the radical center is abstracted by a radical in another chain. Hence a double bond is formed in one polymer molecule and the other polymer molecule becomes saturated, no new radical intermediates are formed for the next propagation step to occur.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Meanwhile in dimerization two radicals combine to form an even longer chain than in disproportionation and further propagation of the chain stops due to elimination of radicals.

Addition polymerization happens in three steps:

- Chain Initiation: Usually an initiator starts the polymerization process. The reactive molecule needs be a radical (free radical polymerization), cation (cationic polymerization), anion (anionic polymerization), or an organometallic complex (coordination polymerization).
- Chain Propagation: The monomer adds onto chain and each new monomer unit then creates an active site for the next attachment.
- Chain termination: The chain formation gets terminated once the radical anion is neutralized and stops reacting bring the whole chain reaction to a halt.

2.1.2 Types Of Plastics Used For Packaging In The EU

There are approximately six types of plastic resins that most popularly used for plastic packaging.

1. High Density Polyethylene
2. Low Density Polyethylene
3. Polyethylene Terephthalate
4. Polypropylene
5. Polystyrene
6. Polyvinyl Chloride

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE):

This is the most popularly used type of plastic used to make plastic bottles and containers as it has excellent resistance to most solvents, it is stronger than most other plastics. It has high tensile strength and is relatively stiffer than other plastics and has higher temperature capabilities. This is why it is mostly used to make bottles for milk, water, juice, cosmetics, detergents and house hold cleaners. It also used to make carry bags and cereal box liners.13

HDPE is has been used for packaging liquids and industrial and household chemicals because these bottles have better crack resistance than other plastics and a relatively longer life than other resins used in packaging . This material is also used to make carry bags that are used to carry goods from the stores to homes .They are considered mainly as single use plastics and their life span is quite short, hence as per EU’s policy on the ban of single us plastics HDPE carrier bags, bottles and other packaging materials will eventually be banned in the EU.

Plastech: Plastics and Packaging Vortal

COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMEN T Impact Assessment for a Proposal for a DIREC TIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags

Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE):

Unlike HDPE, low density polyethylene is mainly used to make films. Its toughness, flexibility and transparency make it popular for use in applications where heat sealing is necessary. LDPE is also used to manufacture some flexible squeeze bottles like ketchup and mustard bottles, flexible lids. It is resistant to acids, bases and vegetable oils and it is also used for heat-sealing.14

Apart from these, LDPE is also used as coatings for paper milk cartons, hot and cold beverage cups, shrink wrap and stretch film. It can also be used for dry cleaning, newspapers, bread, frozen foods, fresh produce and household garbage.

LDPE packaging like HDPE is also difficult to recycle. According to a report an EU report - ‘ Life and EU Plastic Strategy’, which was published in 2018, the existing recycling processes for LDPE cannot significantly reduce the contamination levels that have a negative impact on the quality of the recycled plastic polymer. Hence recycled LDPE cannot be used for the same purposes it served before. Due to this, it has lesser applications and even lesser demand in the market as compared to its virgin state.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET,PETE)

Is the most popular plastic used in Packaging and has even been called the plastic we cannot do we without and for a good cause too.

What is PET?

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) is thermoplastic polymer belonging to the polyester family. So, recycled PET can be converted to fibers, fabrics, sheets for packaging and manufacturing automotive parts.

It is very flexible, naturally colorless and its rigidity depends on how much it has been processed. Talking of which this plastic PET is known to have higher strength in comparison to PBT, it is lightweight with excellent insulation qualities and it can be used to package literally anything as it has a broad temperature spectrum ranging from -60 degrees Celsius to 130 degrees Celsius. It has been approved as safe for contact with foods and beverages by the FDA, Health Canada and other health agencies, hence making it the go to plastic for food and beverage packaging (María Sánchez-Martínez, 2013).

PET is apt for packaging for the following reasons:

1. Polyethylene Terephthalate( PET) acts as barrier against water and moisture. That is why plastic bottles made from PET are widely used for mineral water and carbonated soft drinks like Coca cola.
2. It has high mechanical strength and PET films are ideal to use as tape.
3. PET sheets can be thermoformed to make packaging trays and blisters Other packaging applications include rigid cosmetic jars, microwavable containers, transparent films, etc. Since, PET is often used in packaging the EU aims at incorporating recycled plastic into PET to better incorporate recycled polymers into the supply value chain.15


According to Encyclopedia Britannia it is synthesized by polymerization of propylene, which is a gaseous compound obtained from thermal cracking of butane, ethane, propane and naphtha fractions of petroleum like ethylene.16

This resin has similar properties to polyethylene, but it is stronger, stiffer, and harder, and it softens at higher temperatures. (Its melting point is approximately 170 °C [340 °F]). It is also has good resistance to chemicals, making it suitable for packaging various household products and liquids. Polypropylene is blow-molded into bottles for foods, shampoos, and other household liquids. It is also injection-molded into many products, including appliance housings, dishwasher-safe food containers, toys, automobile battery casings, and outdoor furniture. It is also used to make containers for margarine, yogurt, take-out meals, medicine bottles, bottle caps and closures, ketchup and syrup.

Unlike PET, polypropylene is not recycled much and although it has become one of the most preferred plastics for packaging it is also the least to be recycled.


Polystyrene was discovered by German apothecary Eduard Simon 1839 when he isolated the substance from natural resin. However, he did not know what he had discovered and it was an organic chemist Hermann Staudinger who realized that Simon's discovery, was a plastic polymer which was formed with long chains of styrene molecules.

It wasn’t until 1922 that Staudinger published his theories on polymers, in which he claimed that the materials manufactured by the thermal processing of styrene were similar to rubber. They were the high polymers, including polystyrene. His research on the matter won him the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in1953.

Also one of the most popularly used form of plastic for packaging electronics and fragile household appliances; equipment has been Polystyrene in its foamed form which is commonly known as Styrofoam. Styrofoam like many ingenuous inventions was invented purely by accident, by a scientist named Ray McIntire, who at that time worked for Dow chemical company.

Hence, polystyrene is an extremely versatile plastic that can be rigid or foamed, polystyrene is clear, hard, and brittle and has a low melting point, however, the following properties make it a go to polymer for packaging.

- It acts as an excellent moisture barrier for short shelf life products and Styrofoam has been used to make cups and other food packaging, apart from that Styrofoam has also been used to protect electronic equipment from moisture.
- It is significantly stiff in both foamed and rigid forms
- Low density and high stiffness in foamed applications
- Low thermal conductivity and excellent insulation properties in foamed form

Poly Vinyl Chloride:

PVC was invented by pure accident in 1872 by German chemist Eugen Baumann (Ferdinand Rodriguez, 2016), who found the polymer in the form of a white lump after it had formed inside a flask of vinyl chloride that he had left exposed in the sun. Poly vinyl chloride has a high level of chlorine and is mostly resistant to salts, bases, acids and alcohol. It is also tolerant to high temperatures and only starts to decompose at the about 140 degrees Celsius and has a melting point of approximately 160 degrees Celsius.

Due to its properties PVC is usually used to make:

- PVC is commonly used as the insulation on electrical cables.
- PVC due to its anti-corrosive properties is mainly being used in the health care sector for producing products used in surgery, pharmaceuticals, drug delivery and medical packaging.
- In the automotive industry it is used for headlining, interior door panels and pockets, mud flaps, sun visors, seals, underbody coating, seat coverings, floor coverings and protective strips and anti-stone damage protection.
- Sewerage pipes and other pipes where cost or vulnerability to corrosion prevents the use of metal.
- PVC has become very popular because it is versatile and can be used to make products with high endurance level across a variety of industries like fashion, furniture, automotive, Health care, Construction and so forth.

Unlike other plastic polymers used in packaging PVC now a days is rarely used in food packaging due to speculations which stated that it may lead to poisoning caused by Vinyl Chloride Monomers, although these studies showed that there were risks of VCM toxicity other more recent studies have shown that such transfer of VCM is insignificant, hence although they may be far less harmful than they were speculated to be PVC is rarely used for food packaging in the EU and even if it is it needs to comply with EU’s Framework Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004, as amended), “Regulation (EC) No. 2023/2006 on good manufacturing practice for materials and articles intended to come into contact with food, and the Plastics Regulation (EU) No. 10/2011, as amended.

2.2 End of Life Management of Plastic Packaging Overview

The key problem with Plastic Packaging has been its end of life management, due to improper disposal and inefficient waste collection, transport and dumping, plastic pollution has turned into one of the gravest environmental problem we face today.

The Eurbarometer shows that approximately 84 percent of Europeans are concerned about the environmental impact of plastics while 74 percent of the population was worried about health related issues caused by polymers used in packaging and other products (European Commission , 2017 b).17

This problem is old but methods used in the end of life management of plastics are old and in a way outdated. Today plastic in the EU is either recycled, incinerated or are dumped in landfills. The technology used for recycling does not enable production of good quality polymers and the recycled plastic cannot be used for the same purpose again, hence losing their product value (Andrady, 2015).

Plastic packaging have very short post-consumer life and after they serve their purpose they end up in the trash and not all plastics we throw away can be recycled or reused hence they land up in landfills, where they wait for centuries to disintegrate.

Even after breaking down plastics never really completely disintegrates they break down and turn into micro particles and then nano plastics. Europe is the 2nd largest plastic producer in the world, and dumps approximately 150,000-500,000 tons of macro-plastics and 70,000-130,000 tons of micro-plastics in the sea every year. The majority of these plastics enter the Mediterranean Sea, through Italy, France, Spain, Turkey and Egypt. In fact the plastic pollution is so high in the Mediterranean Sea that the concentration of micro-plastics is nearly four times higher than in the “plastic island” in the North Pacific Ocean. These fragments can easily enter the food chain and pose a threat to health of the marine and human life (WWF , 2018). The example I have given is only of the Mediterranean sea and does not include the Atlantic Ocean, North Sea, Norwegian Sea or the Baltic Sea, hence we can already understand the scope of the problem, plastic waste is entering all our oceans and seas.

Methods Used To Dispose Of Plastic Packaging Waste:

Packaging waste accounts for over 3 percent of all the waste generated in the EU of which paper and cardboard make up for 41 percent of the waste, plastic takes the second spot with 19 percent, glass makes up for 19 percent, wood makes 16 percent and just 5 per cent of the packaging waste is made up of metal. There are three primary methods used to dispose of plastic packaging waste in the EU:

1. Recycling
2. Incineration
3. Landfilling


Recycling is probably the most talked about method of waste disposal when it comes to plastics. Many of the plastic packaging we use can be recycled and reused. But this method has not been utilized to its full extent as collection and sorting of plastic waste is not easy. Apart from this not all plastics can be recycled to their original state and hence cannot be reused for the same purpose.

Until recycling facilities and the public infrastructures to make recycling more efficient do not step up their game, plastic recycling may not be as viable as it can be.

Only 67 percent of packaging was recycled in the EU in 2016, of this 67 percent, 85 percent of the paper and cardboard packaging were recycled; 78 percent of metallic packaging was recycled; 74 percent for glass and 42 percent of the plastic packaging were recycled (European Parlimentary Research Service, 2018).

According to the report by the European Parliamentary Research Service, there is a big difference in the recycling rates for specific packaging materials across Member States.


Incineration is a popular method of disposing of plastic packaging waste and is mostly used in countries like Germany, Switzerland and Sweden (Ola Eriksson, 2009). In 2016, 41.6 percent of the post-consumer plastic waste was incinerated. Burning plastic for energy is a good idea as plastics are built up on hydrocarbon chains and are far denser than coal. Plastics are made from petroleum or natural gas, which gives them a high stored energy value than other materials commonly found, burning plastic and plastic packaging can return a high amount of energy which had been used to produce them. The waste to energy concept allows easy transformation of the troublesome waste into fuel or electricity that can be used to power our cities, towns and villages.

Switzerland consumes 3 times more plastic than any other European country but recycles 30 percent less plastics than others. Although it is not an EU nation it is part of the European Commission. More than 75 percent of the 1,000,000 tons of plastic consumed in Switzerland is disposable packaging material and the debate of whether it should be recycled or burnt for energy is on. Currently only 25 percent of the plastic waste in Switzerland gets recycled 75 percent of it gets burned to produce energy. Burning waste for energy is a common practice in most European nations and it has been one of the key energy producing mechanism in the continent.

The Table below shows the amount of total Plastic Waste that has been incinerated to retrieve energy between the years 2004-2016.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Landfills:

Landfills are the least liked method of waste disposal, especially for waste that is not bio-degradable like plastic waste, which takes over 1000 years to degrade. For the first time in 2016 the amount of plastic ending up in the landfills was less than the amount of plastic that was recycled.

According to ‘Post Consumer Plastic Waste Management in European Countries’, 2016’s data from all the EU nations including Norway and Switzerland shows that 27 million tons of post-consumer plastic waste, 41.6 percent was recovered through energy-from-waste, 31.1 percent recycled and 27.3 percent landed in landfills. “Hence, a total of 72.7 percent of plastic waste was recovered in 2016, as compared to 69.2 percent in 2014.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: PlasticsEurope-Plastics the Facts 2018


This Chapter looks at concept of the circular economy and how it may enable a more sustainable end of life management of products especially plastic packaging products, the environmental benefits of such an economy and how it may and may not benefit businesses across the EU.

2.3.1 Definition of a Circular Economy

A Circular Economy is a concept which was coined in an effort to retain as much value as possible from products, parts and materials. The concept of a circular economy (CE) was first raised by two British environmental economists David W. Pearce and R. Kerry Turner in 1989, they stated that a traditional open-ended economy was developed with no built-in tendency to recycle, which was reflected by treating the environment as a waste reservoir. Hence, the need for a more environment friendly economic structure, the circular economy is grounded in the study of feedback-rich (non-linear) systems, particularly living systems.

A major result of this is the notion is the optimization of systems rather than components, its notion of ‘design for fit’. This generic notion draws from a number of more specific approaches including cradle to cradle, bio mimicry, industrial ecology, and the 'blue economy’.

Authors of the book Circular Business: Collaborate and Cooperate have defined Circular Economy as--an economic system where products and services are traded in closed loops or ‘cycles’. A circular economy is characterized as an economy which is regenerative by design, with the aim to retain as much value as possible of products, parts and materials. This means that the aim should be to create a system that allows for the long life, optimal reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling of products and materials. (Kraaijenhagen, Oppen, & Bocken, 2016)


1 Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made(

2 World Steel Association (WSA), “Steel Statistical Yearbooks 1978 to 2016;” Scholar

3 Plastics – the Facts 2017 An analysis of European plastics production, demand and waste data




7 Plastic Packaging History: Innovations Through History, Published on 2010 updated 2018 January

8 History of Plastic Packaging, July 26 2017

9 Packaging for Sustainability, edited by Karli Verghese, Helen Lewis, Leanne

10 e_page.pdf

11 Deloitte Sustainability,Blueprint for plastics packaging waste: Quality sorting & recycling, Final report

12 Plastics make it possible

13 Plastics make it possible

14 Plastics make it possible

15 “The EU to incorporate 25 percent of recycled plastic in PET bottles as from 2025 and 30 percent in all plastic bottles as from2030,” -Press Release, Circular Economy: Commission welcomes European Parliament adoption of new rules on single–use plastics to reduce marine litter, Brussels, 27 March 2019.

16 Encyclopedia Britannica

17 Packaging

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Sustainability in the EU. The Sustainable Management of Plastic Packaging in a Circular Economy
Masters in Management and Quality Studies
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Prabalta Rijal (Author), 2019, Sustainability in the EU. The Sustainable Management of Plastic Packaging in a Circular Economy, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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