We’re paving the way for the future of circular packaging

Explore Ways to Advance Circular Packaging

We believe in a future where 100% of packaging is circular. That’s why The Recycling Partnership is paving the way for the future of circular packaging with the Pathway to Circularity, a first-of-its-kind initiative for the U.S. providing action-oriented solutions informed by industry knowledge and experience for challenges to circular packaging. It is intended to wash away the gray and bring necessary clarity to successfully advance the circular economy for packaging.

The Residential* Recyclability Framework is the first element of the Pathway to Circularity to be developed. The Framework strives to deliver new depth on the varying factors that shape recycling. The Circular Packaging Assessment Tool  (please download in Adobe for full functionality) uses this Framework to define a clear set of criteria to help brands, retailers, and their supply chains successfully navigate the recycling system and take action to address challenges, making circularity tangible.

Creating sustainable packaging in a circular economy requires a life-cycle solutions approach. The Framework addresses different stages of packaging through five building blocks:

  1. design for recyclability;
  2. access and adoption;
  3. capture journey;
  4. packaging fate; and
  5. recyclability prevalence

Within each building block are key requirements for packaging to be considered recyclable, ranging from packaging design and MRF capture rate to end market demand, and more. The Framework is an important guide in transforming the recycling system and minimizing packaging waste by having stakeholders evolve the packaging that is going into it.

*Residential refers to curbside recycling and municipal drop-off services provided for both single and multifamily housing.

See a brief overview of the Framework in the video below.

Pathway to Circularity Industry Council

The Framework was developed with the Pathway to Circularity Industry Council (the Circularity Council), a group of 35 industry leaders spanning the packaging value chain. They provided input related to defining a clear set of criteria to help companies advance their packaging towards recyclability and meet their sustainability goals.

The Circularity Council utilizes the expertise and varied perspectives across material types, brands, government, Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), NGOs, retailers, and trade associations. This group is addressing the missing and needed determinants for recyclability of packaging, and necessary actions to help packaging in the U.S. recycling system.

The Future of Pathway

The Pathway to Circularity: Circular Packaging Assessment Tool is a self-assessment tool that was created with feedback received during a 30-day public comment period in Fall 2021. A summary of that feedback as well as detailed responses and next steps can be found here. The public comment period was an essential part of a long-term plan to evolve the Pathway to Circularity and connect it with The Recycling Partnership’s strategy-setting tools and initiatives for sustainable packaging, such as Plastic IQ. Be on the lookout for future educational webinars and blog posts regarding the Pathway to Circularity and its associated recycling coalitions.

Catalyzing The Pathway to Circularity: Material-specific Recycling Coalitions

Ready to solve material-specific challenges together? Coalition work has the potential to unlock material supply through real systems change. Creating a sustainable future for innovative packaging is possible and is already happening at scale through initiatives such as The Recycling Partnership’s Film and Flexibles, PET, Aluminum, and Polypropylene Recycling Coalitions. Click here to learn more about Recycling Coalition Formation Criteria or to Join a Coalition.

Thank you to our partners for funding our efforts to build this pathway, thereby helping make circular packaging a possibility for Americans.