Cosmetic packaging specialist Albéa has taken a proactive approach to environmental challenges. Gilles Swyngedauw, Vice President in charge of CSR and Innovation, explains the group’s initiatives.
How does Albéa view the circular economy in relation to packaging?
It’s a global challenge that requires true systemic change, but one that is being answered with local responses—just look at the regulations that vary from one country to another, including within Europe. Nevertheless, things are changing, with Europe aiming to reach zero carbon by 2050 and China by 2060. Laws have never been passed so quickly. In France, for example, it took less than a year to pass the AGEC, a law intended to provide stricter control over single-use plastics.
How can plastic packaging be made more sustainable?
We can start by making it lighter, which is what we’ve been doing for the last decade with our tubes and our flip-top capsule. We’re also studying ways to use post-consumer recycled materials. For packaging to be circular, it must be designed to be recyclable from the outset without downcycling. Ideally, the recycled material produced from packaging should be used in the packaging itself. This is hard to achieve in cosmetics, which follows food-grade standards when it comes to compatibility between container and contents—and the only food-grade recycled plastic is PET.
In other words, the industries that collect and recycle these materials are crucial.
They are. By 2025 in France and 2030 in Europe, every kind of packaging must have its own recycling industry and guarantee that the quality of the recycled material will not be diminished by mixing materials. Some materials, such as conventional plastics, like ABS and polycarbonate are not produced at a high enough volume to have their own industry within packaging, but the same is true of bio-sourced versions. So they will have to be replaced.
Does this require a collaborative approach?
Yes, the entire chain must be revolutionized! Albéa is working with SPICE, the Ellen McArthur Foundation, and Elipso. We recently joined the technical committees of two major plastic recycling associations, Recyclass in Europe and APR in the United States. And our clients, of course, are also hard at work on the issue.