Conserving resources & closing packaging cycles

Conserving resources & closing packaging cycles

Working group

Develop and implement strategies: Reduce, recycle, reuse and where possible replace plastic with alternative materials.

Global plastic production is increasing at a dramatic rate. Nearly 350 million tons of plastic were produced in 2017, compared with 230 million in 2005. Around 25-40 percent of this is for packaging with a very short lifespan. It is used to extend the shelf life of food and a host of other goods. It also makes them easier to transport. In many countries, however, a large amount of plastic packaging ends up in the environment instead of the recycling bin.

Representatives from business, civil society, politics and science work together to develop best practices for the prevention of plastic waste and guidelines for the use of secondary plastics and alternative materials. The aim is to implement these measures in pilot projects with our partner countries.

Making packaging waste valuable; Collecting and recycling plastic waste and creating an effective materials cycle.

Global plastic production is growing rapidly. Almost 350 million tons of plastic were produced in 2017 – in 2005 it was 230 million tons. Around 25-40% of this is used for short-life packaging. Food and goods of all kinds can thus be kept longer and are easier to transport. In many countries, however, a large proportion of plastic packaging ends up in the environment instead of being recycled.

This working group develops joint approaches for collecting and recycling packaging waste. They aim to develop a toolbox that will enable packaging manufacturers, the consumer goods industry and retail to step up to their responsibility. This will help establish collection and recycling systems based on the principle of extended producer responsibility.

Objectives of the working group

Our aim is the sustainable use of plastics and the optimisation of the existing materials cycle.
We want to effectively bring forward the prevention of plastic waste worldwide. We want to promote the recycling of plastic, focusing in particular on increasing the use of recycled plastics in new products. We want to develop recommendations for action for stakeholders and implement these accordingly.

The group aims to raise awareness about the value of packaging materials and establish an effective materials cycle.
We want waste to be seen as a resource. We want to support the creation of efficient take-back and recycling systems for packaging waste, and to create incentives for citizens to participate in these schemes. We want to involve informal workers and recycling companies.


The working group draws up concrete guidelines and recommendations for action. To this end, it collects and documents research results and experiences from various perspectives relating to plastic prevention, secondary raw materials and alternative materials.

Knowledge about individual solutions already exists. This information has to be consolidated as a whole and systematically put into practice. This is the only way of stopping plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and protecting the health of humans and animals.

The guidelines compiled upon this knowledge base will be adapted to the specific conditions in selected partner countries and implemented in pilot projects. That way, the measures will move from the initial planning phase to actual implementation.

The working group will also create a toolbox for collecting, sorting and recycling systems. It will use findings from analyses of recycling systems in different countries as a guide here. Core areas of focus include extended producer responsibility, incentive systems for citizens and the integration of the informal sector.

Existing circular systems must be set up across the globe to ensure there is a lasting change in the way we deal with waste. Extended producer responsibility is a key concept here.

Special focus will be placed on networking between experts in different countries and on collaboration with partners in Africa and Asia. Ties with business associations and networks in these regions will be expanded and intensified. Appropriate tools will then be used in pilot projects to establish and expand circular economy systems for plastic packaging that have been tailored to local contexts.

To establish a circular economy that works on a global scale, we have to think above and beyond national borders. The working group will therefore enable experts from different countries to exchange information during conferences and workshops. Information on existing initiatives will be used to adapt tried-and-tested tools to individual country needs and implement new initiatives.

The working group will create a "toolbox" for collecting and recycling packaging waste based on analyses of examples in different countries. The central question here is how extended producer responsibility systems can be created and expanded. In concrete terms, this means ensuring that businesses bringing packaged goods to market help finance and organise the collection and recycling of packaging waste. This includes above all legal conditions, incentive systems for citizens and ways of integrating the informal sector. The toolbox provides opportunities for discussion during the planning phase and space for orientation during pilot projects and dialogue processes.

Good concepts, however, are not enough. We need to involve people who actually collect and recycle packaging waste. We also need citizens to put plastic waste in the designated containers instead of throwing it into the street or burning it. To this end, the working group collaborates with partners in Africa and Asia that are pursuing the same goals. They use existing networks for this, expanding collaborations and aligning themselves with other initiatives. Informal waste collection workers and recycling companies are also involved in this process and the potential of social entrepreneurship is being harnessed.

To ensure that plastic is used responsibly as a recyclable material, concrete recommendations for action are being developed to prevent plastic waste at every step of the value chain. The working group is already collecting, evaluating and documenting existing best practice approaches from the spheres of politics, business, science and civil society. Knowledge sharing in between the different participants will lead to an expansion of the current expertise. Based on this common knowledge, guidelines will be developed and new activities will be initiated, for example campaigns designed to raise awareness about the prevention of plastic packaging.

The working group develops guidelines with the aim to analyse the use of different secondary plastics and alternative materials. The scientific basis for this is provided by studies on different packaging types, their composition, value and intended uses. International material flows and markets are analysed, and the different material uses are assessed and adapted to ensure they are cost effective and technically viable in the partner countries. The core focus here is on sharing ideas for new business models, transferring these and ensuring they make the leap to actual implementation.

Leads & Contact

Helmut Schmitz

Helmut Schmitz

Duales System - Der Grüne Punkt

+49 (0)2203 937 253

Christina Jäger

Christina Jäger

Yunus Environment Hub

+49 (0)176 87424027

Dr. Henning Wilts

Dr. Henning Wilts

Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie gGmbH

+49 (0)202 2492 139

All Working Groups

Conserving resources & closing packaging cycles

Closing e-waste cycles

Improving framework conditions