Cradle to Cradle® Packaging, plastics and print

How does ecologically packaging work?

Non-returnable biodegradable or returnable with a deposit system? Paper or plastic? What problems are caused by the printing?

Every day, we are in contact with packaging or products made of paper and plastics. They fulfil important functions including the storage of food or compliance with hygiene standards. However, due to the ever-increasing amount of plastic waste in the oceans, society and companies have started to rethink and have defined new goals: away from non-returnable plastic towards biodegradable or recyclable solutions for the circular economy. The necessity becomes clear from the figures: worldwide a mere nine percent of plastic waste is recycled.


How do they differ from existing packaging and printing materials?

Its high recyclability, good applicability and low costs have made plastic one of the most important industrial materials. Plastic in itself is not a problematic material. By utilizing healthy constituents and complying with defined use scenarios, it is often possible to recycle packaging and print material. Circulation in the technical cycle is therefore easily possible.

As a renewable resource, paper is an important alternative packaging material. But when recycled, substances of toxicological concern like pigments, binding or bleaching agents from the printing on the packaging may have an adverse effect on the paper cycle. In this case, undesirable substances may enter into the products contained in packaging made from the recycled material. In particular, foodstuffs are then subject to a potential health risk.

„The biggest challenge is the mix of different materials and problematic additives. “

From the perspective of Cradle to Cradle® it is therefore important to positively define packaging, plastic and paper products from the outset. From the primary materials to printing inks to adhesives. This is the only way to ensure a high quality of material safety and recyclability while also creating a positive added value for humans and the environment. Effective product design, take-back systems and new business models provide for competitive advantages for innovative companies.

How does EPEA support the implementation of Cradle to Cradle® packaging, paper and plastic?

For more than 30 years, we have been working as an innovation partner and knowledge trustee with manufacturers of plastic and paper products, printing inks and additives. As an accredited Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Assessment Body, we support companies with global supply chains in the implementation of Cradle to Cradle® products for the technical and biological cycle: from the optimisation of pigments to the development of take-back systems for packaging, paper and plastic. We act together with our partners.

  • Material / chemical evaluation and optimization
  • Network initiatives & Cross-Industrial cooperation
  • Design for disassembly
  • C2C Certified™ Certification
  • Development of take-back systems

The EPEA science team has comprehensive expertise in the areas of material composition, recycling processes, inks and performance chemicals for paper and plastic. This know-how is used for the optimisation of material safety and the recyclability of products. From the design to the implementation of C2C products, each individual constituent is examined for compatibility with the environment and health.

Within the scope of the Healthy Printing Initiative, we gather all players at a round table to jointly develop healthy printing products. A best practice example for this are the bottle labels developed in cooperation with Carlsberg, Töpfer and the hubergroup. In addition, we have successfully optimised recyclable plastic packaging together with Rittersport as well as Werner & Mertz.  

What added value does Cradle to Cradle® packaging, paper and plastic offer?

In a best-case scenario, paper and plastic packaging and printing material are produced using renewable energies and under fair social conditions. In addition, they can be reused as nutrients. This is beneficial for our oceans, rivers and forests, creates social added values and makes each of us part of the solution when buying these products. Together, we can achieve:

Highest ecological product quality for packaging

Knowledge of all ingredients of a product as well as a transparent and fair supply chain

A positive footprint

Circular and sustainable products