Terms such as circular economy, zero carbon footprint, and environmental sustainability have entered our vocabulary as citizens, businesses, and institutions in our search for solutions to meet the ambitious and necessary Green Deal targets. But what does it really mean to be part of a circular economy and what role do ceramic containers play in a zero-waste strategy?
Circular economy, a complex concept
Three years have passed since the Green Deal was approved, a set of initiatives by the European Commission for the European Union to be climate neutral by 2050. The initiative aims to introduce new legislation on issues such as biodiversity, agriculture, innovation, and the circular economy. The concept of a circular economy is not as new as one imagines. It was first proposed in 1989 by British environmental economists David W. Pearce and R. Kerry Turner as an economic model that focuses on the use of resources in one or more circular processes, which is in direct contrast to the produce-consume- throw model.
“To achieve climate neutrality by 2050, preserve our natural environment and strengthen our economic competitiveness, a fully circular economy is necessary. Today, our economy remains almost entirely linear, with only 12% of secondary materials and resources re-entering the economy. Many products break too easily, cannot be reused, repaired or recycled, or are made for single use only.”
Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President responsible for the European Green Deal
Over the years many scientists have expanded or redefined what they understand by a circular economy. The German chemist-environmentalist Michael Braungart and the American architect William McDonough published the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things in 2002, where they stress that it is not so important to reduce consumption but to promote a new concept in industrial production where anything can be reused, whether the product returns to the soil as a biological nutrient or returns to industry as a technical nutrient. When conceiving and designing a product, all life cycle phases must be taken into account, such as manufacturing and usage, but also reuse and recycling. With the Green Deal, circularity has become a norm and will accelerate the ecological transition of our economy.
Zero waste, zero emissions
In our planet´s ecosystems, the concept of garbage does not exist. The circular economy therefore intrinsically carries the notion of zero waste and zero emissions. The urgent need to reduce waste and avoid wasting natural resources is one of the key points of action in achieving the objectives set out in the Green Deal. Packaging plays an important role in this strategy. For that purpose, the European Commission has proposed new standards on packaging for the entire European Union. Packaging is one of the main users of virgin materials and 40% of all plastics used in the European Union are used for packaging. Each EU citizen generates almost 180kg of packaging waste per year. If we don't act now, according to a study, packaging waste will increase by 19% by 2030.
The possibility of reusing packaging is one of the key points in avoiding the generation of waste and reintroducing raw materials into the circular economy.
The new European Union proposal on packaging and packaging waste regulation (PPWR) will above all take into account the possibility of its reusability and the need to promote recycling circuits. A draft proposal for these new standards was published on November 30, 2022, and is currently under review by the European Parliament and the European Council. The final text of the new regulation is expected to be released by the end of this year. At Cermer, we support and follow very closely any new developments, and we actively participate in positioning ceramics as an alternative packaging that meets the requirements of this future regulation.
Ceramics, an ally for the circular economy
Our ceramic containers contribute to zero waste objectives due to their great potential to be reused and recycled and their inert nature which does not pose any chemical or biological threat to natural sources like water and soil, nor to other living beings or plants. And what better ally than the consumers themselves when it comes to avoiding the generation of waste? Consumers are the best ambassadors for ceramic containers. 95% of users choose to reuse them as kitchen and tableware after their initial use as packaging.
Our dishes, jars and ramekins are conceived, designed and manufactured to be used as table and kitchenware and serve for packaging purposes only during a reduced part of their long-life span.
Ceramic containers account for only 0.013% of all packaging waste generated in the European Union. Considering this extremely low percentage and being mono-material packaging, it is common sense that the recycling of ceramic containers should be integrated into already existing closed circuits such as the collection of ceramic construction waste. The synergies with the construction sector are also already a reality, considering the boom in the use of ceramics in so-called bioconstruction.
At Cermer, we are committed to leaving future generations a world full of diverse resources and are proud to offer our customers a sustainable and environmentally friendly product.