Don’t Let the Circular Economy Spin you Round in Circles

Improve Your Packaging to Meet 21st Century Environmental Global Challenges


Through the 90’s and even the early 00’s for many established businesses, thinking about “green credentials” was a nice to have. How times have changed!  The eco system is falling apart around us and those green credentials now represent the strongest trend in the packaging and corrugated box sector.

The Circular Economy


Driven by political pressure and consumer perception, governments around the world are embracing what’s known as the circular economy.

You may or may not know about it but to explain, the circular economy starts by avoiding waste. It benefits business, society and the environment by eliminating waste and separating business growth from the consumption of the world’s finite resources.

As leaders of your businesses, this is something that you will need to consider and its pertinence will continue to grow and take priority.  There are 3 key principles of the circular economy to follow: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  It’s about building more with less and preserving our eco system.

Before you rush off to reach for your own quotas and targets, or scramble to balance your own packaging / commercial conundrums, we at the Reedbut Group have provided our views and suggestions on how you can answer the call of the circular economy.

1. Design for Recycling

People and businesses love to recycle and more recycling is of course, a great development.

Going through the whole journey from product conception to customer opening, reassurance is required by the end user that they are not only handling packing that has been recycled, but in order to then recycle,  post-consumer packaging has to fulfil a list of requirements

  • bio-degradable ink,
  • ability to keep clean
  • eco-friendly labelling

While recyclers are springing up all over the place, sadly we are a long way from where we need to be. The key issues to solve are; volume of product to recycle and its quality.


Lately, we hear a lot about the volume problem in the news, in particular when it’s shipped off to Thailand and Malaysia for recycling.  Here, superfluous waste is disposed of in endless landfills, whilst some also ends up as ocean plastic. Some is even illegally burnt in the open air, releasing noxious fumes over local settlements.

And then there’s the quality.  Recycling infrastructure remains very selective of the kind of waste it accepts and rejects. Recycling technologies have not met the pace of recycling populations including commercial enterprises.  They can only work with waste that fulfils the list of criteria mentioned earlier.

Allow us to introduce you to the chicken and egg scenario; infrastructure will only expand to handle the large volume if there are sufficient amounts of high-quality waste that can be recycled!  It’s not the will of commerce or the people to recycle, we just need governments to step in and make this process incentivised and regulated.  If not, the mismatch will continue with a detrimental impact on the environment.

The Reedbut Group Says…

Our hands are tied to unravel the mismatch, but we can do our bit.  Designing for recycling is certainly imperative to future-proof one’s business, our economy and our eco-system.  Here’s what we recommend you do.

First, insist all corrugated packaging is made from FSC registered raw materials.  Then, work with packaging design experts to ensure your designs keep the recycling infrastructure in mind.

Our Packaging Intelligence Service technicians are able to evaluate and recommend the most cost-effective solutions for:


  • Productivity
  • Customer Experience
  • Reducing Damages
  • Sustainability / Environmental Impact
  • Storage / Transport Packaging

Don’t be afraid to challenge the design to ensure it fulfils the list of quality requirements for recycling: bio-degradable ink, cleanliness, eco-friendly labelling.

And finally, if fillers are required, ensure they are corrugated cardboard or paper based and not plastic. Why not install a cardboard shredder and turn your cardboard waste into protective packaging material?

2. Design for Reuse

Reuse is a more difficult problem to solve as it relies upon the behaviour of the end user.  The habit of handling packaging is simply to tear open and throw away or recycle.

The Reedbut Group design team has invested in testing many prototypes to ensure that reuse is realistic and can influence behaviour.  For example, with the addition of our ripper tape, the end user will be encouraged to open their package via this mechanism rather than tear it apart!  In addition, we apply up to two lines of release tape for easy closure and customer return.  This means that the same package can be reused.

The Reedbut Group Says…

Increasing reuse is a must-win battle for optimizing resources and drastically reducing waste.

  • Go bespoke; define the usage and cycle of the packaging for your product and work with the technical design teams to tailor make the packaging
  • Second guess the behaviour of your customers. Does the packaging say “re-use me” or does it encourage more of a rip it open approach? How can you avoid the latter?
  • Why not print a friendly eco-focussed note to the inside of the box, to make suggestions on the reuse of the corrugated packaging.

Here are some great repurposing ideas:


  • Letter garland

  • Desktop organiser

  • Floating tube shelf

  • Colourful cardboard lanterns

  • New boxes out of old boxes

  • Collapsible cardboard playhouse

3. Reduce and Remove Packaging

Reducing and ultimately removing packaging from products, is a lucrative way of minimising the materials in circulation and ultimately the environmental impact of packaging.  Big tick for the circular economy!

But we must not be quick to exclude the purpose of packaging if it safeguards the product’s quality and prevents wastage.  Just look at our friend the cucumber; who knew that shrink-wrapping it would make it last more than three times as long as an unwrapped one!

The lesson here is simple; don’t remove packaging if it’s there to fulfil its primary purpose of safeguarding the product’s quality.  Otherwise, the product may go to waste, and the environmental issue still exists.

The Reedbut Group Says...

  1. One size does not fit all! Start sizing to fit your products.  Not only will this have added benefits to the environment, it will help your bottom line.  Less packaging is not only lighter, it takes up less room.
  2. Every cm counts just as much as every kilogram, and most shipping costs are now based on dimensional weight. Weight is no longer the dominant factor in calculating shipping rates, how much room a package will take up in a delivery truck is!
  3. If you need to safeguard quality of your product, ask the advice of the design team – our technical team are experts in this field and can work with you to ensure your products arrive safely and in tact.
  4. Combine the purpose of the box to eliminate the need for tape, fillers, and two lots of material i.e. one to house and one to post. Our e-Lok™ box was created to help the prestigious Charles Tyrwhitt retail brand dramatically evolve their packaging (click to read more about it).  Printing on the box ensured the branding was intact, inside the box the products were secured and the corrugated box itself was manufactured much more considerately from recycled material and completely free of plastic, tape and glue.

4. New Out-of-the-Box Ideas

Now, how can you get through an article sharing new ideas about packaging and boxes,  without suggesting that you need to  “think out-of-the-box?”  Sorry for the obvious but there are a lot of innovative ideas out there and some that haven’t even been thought about yet!

Innovation can be hard but all the more rewarding.  Think about your product or your clients’ product really carefully.  Is there a way of innovatively packing and delivering it? How will you send your product? What about retail boxes; how can you display your product whilst protecting it?

The Reedbut Group Says...

These are some ideas we’ve seen (all of which we can create and manufacture) that we love.  They may just inspire you!

  • Go for it and reinvent
  • Make alliances with manufacturers and suppliers; engage with the packaging manufacturers design team at conception stage. Make the packaging another reason to tempt purchase
  • Bring the whole supply chain process into the customer journey

And Finally...

Be courageous, apply out-of-the-box thinking, understand your whole supply chain and if you can, invest in R&D.  These attitudes and practices are critical to the development of sustainable packaging and ultimately, our futures.  The Reedbut Group holds sustainability and environmental issues at the heart of what we do.

Buckle up as the Circular Economy is real.  Let us  help you create a more sustainable way of packaging your products and prevent you from spinning around in circles.  Thank you for reading and we look forward to hearing from you; click here for our contact details.


Other articles from the Reedbut Group we think you will enjoy:

How to Ensure your eCommerce Delivery is More Eco-friendly

You’ll Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression