Project News: Case Studies on Circular Plastics

SEALIVE project partners Gate2Growth and Greenovate! Europe are developing business models to support the uptake and use of bio-based plastic solutions. Here we examine case study examples of innovative business models used around the world. 

Tackling the challenges of plastic wastes and pollution requires a number of new approaches, materials, and services. As well as proving the technical possibility of new solutions, they must also be rolled-out using innovative business models.

Many businesses around the world are already implementing such models, demonstrating their feasibility and profitability, which can provide inspiration for others. We examine some of these models below.


Return System (Sweden)

Sweden’s Return System delivers reusable crates and palates to goods producers for use in shipping their products to wholesalers and retailers. The emptied crates and pallets are then collected by the Return System which checks them for quality, and washes and repairs as needed, ready for use again. The Return System is a business-driven Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) model jointly owned by the Trade Association for Groceries of Sweden (50%) and the Swedish Food & Drink Retailers Association (50%). It has been operating since 1997 and is currently enabling reusable crates for half of all fresh food deliveries in Sweden. The scheme implements both a pay-per-use model and requires a deposit for crates and pallets. These have a lifetime of around fifteen years, and at end of life, they are recycled to produce new pellets.

A similar system exists in Denmark but is applied to private consumers. Almost all bottles and cans sold in Denmark are included, with any shop that sells bottles or cans being required to also receive them back from consumers. Consumers pay a deposit for the packaging, receiving their deposit back upon its return. The packaging is then collected by the return system, with 92% total returned.


EcoPlasteam (Italy)

EcoPlasteam is a private company that uses a process to treat polylaminates (PO-LA) to create a new, drop-in material (EcoAllene) for use in a number of applications such as construction, furnishings and non-food packaging. Polylaminates are materials used for food packaging comprised of multiple layers of plastic, paper and metal (e.g., cartons for drinks and packaging for liquid foods) which are sturdy and liquid-resistant, but difficult to recycle. Rather than separating the layers to recycle into pure streams, or incinerating, all layers are recycled together through their process to create a new secondary raw material, which is, itself, recyclable.


BioPak (Australia)

BioPak is a specialist in the field of compostable, sustainable packaging, answering the needs desire of many consumers and producers to turn away from fossil-fuel-based products. The company has produced a wide number of food packaging products from sustainably produced paper products, bioplastics, sugarcane and sustainable wood. This has resulted in a complete range of compostable and sustainable packaging that complies with various stringent European Standards (EN), Australian Standards (AS), OK Compost Home, OK Biobased and ASTM standards.

As well as the sustainable packaging materials, BioPak also operates a waste management service – the Compost Service – to collect organic waste, including their packaging, and take it to an affiliated compost partner. This can be provided for companies in set locations but is also provided for events and festivals where significant amounts of organic waste and food packaging can be generated.


MIWA (Czech Republic)

MIWA (Minumum Waste) is a private company in Czech Republic that seeks to make waste-free shopping the ‘new normal’. MIWA sells two primary products – food distribution systems and compatible food containers. The distribution systems are purchased by shops for the storage of products, from which customers can fill the food containers. The containers are unlabelled so they can be used for any product. Information on the contents (expiry, origins, allergens, etc.) is instead made available via a smartphone application. At end of life, MIWA takes responsibility again for the products in a closed-loop, recycling them into new applications. They calculate that this system reduces the environmental impact of food packaging by 71% compared to disposable materials.

For more inspiration on circular packaging, visit the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s collection of case studies, and follow the SEALIVE project for future updates!

For more information about SEALIVE ’s research in circular business models, please contact Carmen Bianca Socaciu, or Simon Hunkin,


Further reading

Published 02/03/2021 | Last edited 26/03/2021

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