Realizing product-packaging combinations in circular systems: Shaping the research agenda

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Recent years have shown a shift in the focus of sustainable development from eco-efficiency (minimizing negative impacts) towards eco-effectiveness (optimizing positive impacts). Currently, a focus on circular models can be identified; Cradle to Cradle and circular economy are main examples of such models. However, the current number and variety of models and tools focusing on circular systems are limited with regard to packaging development. This paper explores packaging development models and tools in relation to circular systems, in order to identify the current status of the circularity focus. A range of identified models and tools is structured into two categories (generative and evaluative tools) which cover three types (protocols, diagrams and evaluations). This is in line with the distinction between early and later phases of development and the cumulative nature of environmental lock-in. Protocol-type models and tools come in different forms, such as principles, guidelines and checklists (e.g. Cradle to Cradle and DfE). Aside from these, eight diagram-type models are analysed, focusing on packaging development, sustainable development and sustainable packaging development. In contrast to generative design tools, evaluation-type models and tools (e.g. LCA) are most useful in the later stages of development processes. Resulting from the analysis of the models and tools, three types of integration – integrated product-packaging development, the cross-functional integration of actors and the front-end integration of sustainability considerations – are appropriate for the development of product-packaging combinations for circular systems. This leads to an agenda which shapes research directions towards achieving this development
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-460
JournalPackaging technology and science
Issue number8
Early online date10 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • IR-101912
  • METIS-318603

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