Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Circulate: Digital Sourcing Platform for Sustainable Packaging

A sustainability management platform for the textile industry, an independent sourcing platform for sustainable packaging, a biodegradable packaging grown out of hemp and mycelium, a marketplace for used electrical and electronic equipment, a technology-driven platform to connect informal waste pickers to the recycled plastic market and a technological machine to analyse plastic composition – these are the ideas developed by the six Green Alley Award finalists of 2023.

Let’s continue with introducing the second finalist, Circulate from Sweden.

Circulate offers a digital sourcing platform and marketplace for sustainable packaging solutions that makes finding, comparing, and implementing better packaging less complex and more transparent. At the same time, the platform helps producers of sustainable packaging scale and expand into new markets and customer segments.

As the European Green Deal moves forward, aiming to make all packaging recyclable by 2030, the demand for sustainable packaging will also rise. Consequently, this type of service and platform will become more and more important as packaging regulations become stricter. Read the interview to find out more about Circulate’s founding story and their circular economy solution.

Your innovation is another great way to drive major changes in the packaging industry and to contribute to a more sustainable world. How did you have the idea to bring together suppliers and consumers in this industry? 

In Europe we consume three times more than the world can generate. There is a massive need to cut consumption and understand how we can use resources more efficiently. On top of the massive overconsumption, we are facing huge challenges with waste – where packaging is a major culprit. 

Both society and governments are aware of these issues: So, we were wondering why the transition to greener alternatives is taking so long?

To find out why, our founder, Karolina Ling-Vannerus, took a job as a consultant in the packaging industry. Karolina quickly realized that the current process to find, compare and implement better packaging is time consuming, complex and lacks transparency – especially for smaller companies.

The greener alternatives are out there, but the new innovations fail to scale due to poor commercialization and limited product ranges. 

In 2021, Circulate was founded to combat these issues and speed up the transition to more sustainable alternatives by guiding and connecting smaller buyers with the most sustainable packaging producers.

The new landscape deriving from the new regulations for sustainable packaging is offering new opportunities all over Europe, nevertheless each country still has unique laws. How would you describe the situation on the packaging market in Europe?

One big difference between now and a few years ago is that packaging buyers’ demand for greener solutions has grown exponentially, mainly driven by increased awareness and demands from their customers. At the same time governments and society are putting an increased pressure on producers and packaging buyers with stricter regulations and taxations being implemented every year. 

There are EU standards all countries need to follow as a base but then some countries have chosen to set stricter regulations than the EU standard. On our platform we are transparent and educating about all these different regulations and their specific impact making it easier for our suppliers and buyers to navigate this market. 

Ensuring you find the best possible supplier is very important. Can you please walk us through the selection process and tell us about the characteristics that the supplier must have?

Together with experts, we have developed the world’s first holistic sustainability screening model for packaging, looking beyond just LCA and CO2, to ensure all products on our platform are truly the better choice for the future of the planet. Before going live, all packaging products on our platform go through a rigorous screening process to ensure they meet our minimum criteria.

For example, the products must be made with at least 70% of renewable materials which are likely to be reused, recycled, or composted in most of the EU (i.e., not becoming waste). We also take into consideration the ethical working conditions as well as the characteristics of the products. Another criterion is to make sure that the material weight and volume is minimized while keeping functionality and ensuring safety and hygiene for both product and consumer (EN 13428). 

What is your USP?

There are companies out there offering sustainable packaging, however since packaging is never a company’s core, there is a knowledge gap for the buyer. Circulate bridges the gap between inexperienced packaging buyers and the suppliers, helping them understand their packaging needs and objectively assess the market and the alternatives out there. This, combined with digitalising the whole purchasing and restocking process and adding a layer of data and analytics, makes us the ultimate tool for handling packaging. 

Please complete our sentence: The world needs a circular economy because… 

… we simply don’t generate enough new resources to consume on such a high level as we do today. So, if we want to keep this high rate, we need to reuse resources in a more efficient way.

Register now and watch our six finalists pitch their idea live in Berlin on 27th April 2023!

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