Assessment and reusable packaging systems

Reusing packaging is one of the three ways identified by the European Union to successfully transition to the circular economy by 2030, the year in which 100% of plastic packaging marketed in the EU must be reusable, recyclable or compostable. Packaging reuse systems for household packaging as well as commercial and industrial packaging need to be in place for reusable packaging to be effectively used again, among other requirements.

ITENE assesses whether packaging is reusable, implementing any necessary design changes and developing packaging reuse systems should this not be the case.

Evaluación y sistemas de envases reutilizables
Evaluación y sistemas de envases reutilizables
Evaluación y sistemas de envases reutilizables

Why is reusable packaging a pathway to comply with sustainability targets at national and European level?

Legislation in Spain encourages packaging reuse and its circularity, in line with the European Plastics Strategy published in 2018 by the European Commission, which states that 100% of plastic packaging placed on the market in 2030 must be reusable, recyclable or compostable.

  • The Spanish Law on Waste and Contaminated Soil for a Circular Economy, which was passed in April 2022, introduces a tax for non-recyclable or non-reusable plastics of €0.45 per kg of virgin material.

– This indirect tax, which set to come into force in January 2023, will be levied on the manufacture, import or intra-Community acquisition of packaging containing virgin plastic that is not reusable and on semi-finished products designed to be used as packaging (such as preforms and thermoplastic sheets).

Tax exemptions will be granted upon proof that the packaging is reusable.

– states that all packaging (not only plastic packaging) must be recyclable, compostable or, where possible, reusable by 2030.

-sets out mandatory percentages for reuse according to the year of entry into force, type of packaging (HORECA, commercial, industrial or household) and type of product (water, beer, soft drink and other types of containers). By way of example:

        • The amount of reusable packaging marketed in the household channel as a percentage of total packaging by weight in this category must be 5% in 2030 and 10% in 2035.
        • The percentage of reusable beverage packaging (in particular, bottled water, beer and soft drinks) marketed in the household channel must be at least 10% in 2030 in terms of sales units.
        • The amount of reusable commercial and industrial packaging as a percentage of total packaging by weight for each of these categories must be 20% in 2030 and 30% in 2035.

-The proposed measures for commercial packaging include the following:

        • Establishments selling fresh produce, beverages and pre-cooked food must agree to use appropriate and properly sanitized reusable containers.
        • Retail outlets shall have to stock between one and seven reusable beverage container references from 2025 or 2026, depending on their retail surface area.
Evaluación y sistemas de envases reutilizables
Envase reutilizable

How do I know whether packaging is reusable?

  1. TheRoyal Decree on Packaging and Packaging Waste states that:
    • Reusable packaging refers to packaging that has been conceived, designed and marketed to carry out multiple trips and rotations in its lifetime, by being refilled or reused for the same purpose for which it was conceived.
    • Standard UNE-EN 13429:2005 “Packaging. Reuse” can be used to determine whether packaging is reusable.
  2. Standard EN 13429 is thereby the technical reference document for analysing and demonstrating packaging reusability. Consequently, it is necessary to analyse whether or not the packaging in question complies with the standard and, if it does not, solutions must be implemented to achieve compliance.According to this standard, reusable packaging must comply with five basic requirements:
  1. Intention that it is reused
  2. Design
  3. Reconditioning
  4. Refill/reloading
  5. Reuse systems

Our services:

1. Reusable packaging assessment

ITENE assesses whether packaging is recyclable according to the general and specific requirements established in the UNE-EN 13429:2005 standard “Packaging. Reuse”. If the packaging does not meet one or more of these criteria, we help our customers to develop and implement any changes required, in terms of design, reconditioning, refill/reloading and reuse systems.

Evaluación y sistemas de envases reutilizables

Evaluación y sistemas de envases reutilizables

2. Reusable packaging design

ITENE offers design solutions to ensure that packaging is adapted to the technical requirements for reuse and reconditioning/filling systems (e.g., emptying, washing, stacking and repeated use). In addition, we can make sure that traceability systems are in place for all the different packaging phases. A series of identification technologies can be used (RFID, QR labels, laser engraving, watermarking, etc.) for this purpose.

This can help to detect any need to change shape, size, thickness, or strength in order to optimize the packaging.

3. New packaging reuse systems

ITENE develops packaging reuse systems to comply with current regulatory requirements as cost-effectively and eco-efficiently as possible.

According to EN 13429, there are three types of circuits to reuse packaging:

Nuevos sistemas de reutilización de envases

  • Closed loop: a system in which packaging is reused by one company or a co-operating group of companies.
  • Open loop: a system in which packaging is reused among unspecified companies.
  • Hybrid circuit: a system consisting of two parts:

– Packaging, which remains with the end user, for which there is no redistribution system leading to commercial refilling, i.e., it is refilled with an auxiliary product.

-The packaging is single-use and is used as an auxiliary product to transport the contents to the reusable packaging

In addition to designing the packaging to make it reusable, we also help to:

  • Define protocols to collect reused packaging to be sent to the distributor or the packer (one of these two agents manages reuse and refilling) and the reconditioning process for its reuse.
  • Design validation pilots for these systems.
Other additional phases can be included in these systems.
    • ITENE provides technical advice to demonstrate the safety of the materials used in this circuit.
    • We also carry out different types of food safety tests for this purpose.
  • One option to control packaging reuse systems is to implement digital traceability systems, which provide relevant data such as the number of use cycles packaging is suitable for, and demonstrate full traceability and control of the packaging during the cycle and ensure the safety and food contact compatibility of the materials.

Benefits of implementing packaging reuse systems  
  • Compliance with current legislation
  • Tax savings
  • Definition of tried and tested working protocols
  • Packaging optimisation adapted to life cycle and use cycles.
  • How can I help you?

    Antonio Dobón foto
    Antonio Dobón

    Recycling Technologies and Waste Management Area Manager

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