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Fiber Based Packaging: Opportunities in a Circular Economy

Recycled Boxes

Companies are in a constant state of disruption and evolution as they attempt to stay ahead of government regulations, competitors, and new market entrants. In this rapidly evolving world, they face numerous obstacles when it comes to maintaining and creating strong environmental commitments.

The circular economy represents one of the biggest environmental and economic opportunities through which companies can lower their environmental footprint and represents an estimated $4.5 trillion dollar additional economic output by 2030.

The circular economy moves away from the traditional linear consumption model and promotes the elimination of waste through the continual use of natural resources. This holistic framework allows companies to evaluate the environmental impact of their products from natural resource extraction to end-of-life product disposal. Adopting this framework can help companies elevate their existing sustainability commitments by focusing on optimizing natural resource use and minimizing waste. This framework is particularly salient for industries with limited product life cycles.

Images of plastic in the ocean, particularly wrapped around wildlife, created an instant uproar around the issue of plastic disposal. This debate quickly expanded beyond plastic and included all single-use packaging. Packaging companies concerned by both public and regulatory scrutiny should consider how circular strategies can help them mitigate the improper disposal of their products. Fiber-based packaging is a predominantly single-use product model with a limited product life cycle. However, by adopting circular strategies the industry can extend the life of their products and minimize end-of-life waste disposal. The circular framework provides four major strategies: Resource Recovery, Product Life Extension, Circular Supply Chain, and Product as a Service through which they can address issues of inefficient resource use and improper waste disposal.

This report looks at how the industry is shifting away from the traditional linear consumption model by highlighting innovative strategies and products being adopted by leading players in the fiber-based packaging sector. We evaluate the four circular strategies and address the challenges and opportunities associated with each of these models.


Sundara Bhandaram

Managing Consultant at South Pole
Master of Environmental Management 2020

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