Circular economy in action: Recycling food packaging into school desks
Food packaging plays an important role in preventing food waste, keeping our food fresh longer on supermarket shelves and protecting it from production to consumption. Multilayer plastic packaging has proved to be among the most effective forms of packaging when it comes to shelf life extension and food waste prevention. However, so far this type of packaging has also been the most technically challenging to recycle.
A multipartner initiative known as the Virtuous Circle project in South Africa, took on the challenge of addressing the recycling of multilayer plastic packaging while tackling the broader societal objectives around education and childhood nutrition.
At the heart of the Virtuous Circle project were innovative multilayer food packaging pouches designed to preserve both food and water over long periods. These were distributed to schoolchildren as nutritious morning meals. They were then collected at schools to be recycled into raw materials for the production of school desks, so the children could see the circular economy in action with their own eyes.
Associated SDG targets
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Circular Economy 2.0
In 2015, the European Commission published its Circular Economy package to promote the transition from a linear economy into a circular economy, where resource efficiency is increased and the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible. When a product reaches the end of its life, options such re-use, remanufacturing and recycling can be explored to create additional value. Circular Economy can bring forth economic benefits, by contributing to growth and job creation and stimulating innovation, and in parallel provide environmental benefits.