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Blog | 11/20/2018 08:54:00 | 2 min Read time

A truly circular system means free movement of materials – and information

Oona Koski

Sustainability Manager, UPM Raflatac

The circular economy is about much more than just recycling. Shifting to a truly circular model means moving away from today’s dominant linear produce-use-dispose model. In a circular system, products and materials move around continuously and are not disposed after use, but are instead reused or recycled.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) Circular Economy 100 programme, which UPM Raflatac has joined, is a global network promoting this change. The foundation advances a circular economy by sharing concrete actions and innovations with a variety of actors from across society.

Sustainable solutions only come from common targets

Building a circular future requires several steps and true collaboration. The first step is to form common targets – without them, there are no shared priorities, and the circular economy will be mere words.

Common targets help us address key questions and improve processes and production. For example, many products are not optimized for recycling. Labels that are compostable or ideally supporting package recycling may currently be mismatched with the wrong product composition which make the original circular design useless. These gaps between the old and upcoming systems needs to be closed, and in this case, the common target of increasing recyclability clarifies obvious sustainable solutions.

In addition to enhancing existing processes, we need new projects based on the circular economy, such as the EMF-led New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. UPM Raflatac is one of 350 signatory organizations, many of whom have committed to 100% of their plastic packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Free flow of information in every direction

In the linear economy model, both materials and information move only in one direction. The designers and manufactures rarely, and only slowly, get any feedback from end customers, delaying their reactions to needs in the market.

Only when information and knowledge flows freely in every direction can a model indeed be circular. Information is needed at all value chain stages, from innovation and design to product development, manufacturing, use, reuse and recycling. Information sharing and open discussion enable the creation of holistic solutions for a sustainable future.

Shared information and a shared understanding of a circular economy – including the steps and challenges involved in reaching this goal – are necessary. But we also need to test and implement these steps in reality. Hence, we at UPM Raflatac are searching and implementing new innovations for smarter and more circular labeling and packaging solutions – for example, using removable labels to enable package reuse.

What are your organization's actions towards a truly circular model?

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Oona Koski

Oona Koski

Sustainability Manager, UPM Raflatac | ”Don't underestimate the power of innovation. An idea that first feels irrelevant and silly can be the one changing the world."