The pallet: reuse and circular economy
The pallet: reuse and circular economy
In recent decades, we have lived under a linear economic model, where raw materials were extracted to manufacture products, produced and then discarded, without taking into account the environmental footprint and its consequences. All this has been caused by the acceleration of consumption, the desire for immediacy, the continuous search for comfort and novelty, impatience, etc. This model is contrary to how nature itself works, or even how people in rural areas or our grandparents, where in all cases the use and reuse of resources was very high.
Fortunately, in recent years this trend is changing and is beginning to be replaced by the implementation of a circular economy model of production and consumption that seeks to minimise waste generation and make the best use of available resources. In other words, we are imitating nature and our ancestors. Within this circular model, packaging plays a key role, as it can be reused, recycled or recovered, thus reducing its environmental impact and generating economic and social benefits.
In Europe, the circular economy, as well as being an environmental plan, is also a geostrategic and economic survival plan as a resource-importing continent.
Logically, this transition from a linear economy to a circular economy must be accompanied by a legislative update that imposes obligations, responsibilities, objectives and tools necessary to ensure environmental protection, economic growth and social development.
Two good examples of the “environmental legislative revolution” we are currently undergoing to promote this circular economy are Law 7/2022 on Waste, which came into force on 10 April 2022, and Royal Decree 1055/2022 on packaging and packaging waste, which came into force on 29 December 2022. The latter, among other aspects, incorporates a number of new developments in the management of commercial and industrial packaging.
Amongst some of these developments is that producers of commercial and industrial packaging will be responsible for the financing and management of used packaging and packaging waste generated. This, based on the polluter pays principle, is known as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), and to comply with it, producers can do so individually by setting up an Individual System of Extended Producer Responsibility (SIRAP) or by joining together with other producers in a Collective System of Extended Producer Responsibility (SCRAP).
Another of the new features of this Royal Decree is the obligation to implement a Deposit, Return and Refund System (DRS), managed by a SIRAP or a SCRAP, to manage packaging that is reusable once it is empty. This system consists of the producer/packer sending his goods in reusable packaging to his customer and charging him a deposit for the packaging delivered, a deposit that he will return to his customer once he returns the empty reusable packaging, so as to guarantee the return to its origin and the possibility of reuse. This collection and return of the deposit can be carried over if there are intermediate stages between different agents, so that the person who delivers the packaging collects the deposit which he returns when the empty packaging is returned to him again.
Commercial and industrial packaging that is reusable includes pallets (both wooden and plastic). Producers of this type of packaging will have to comply with the indicated obligations of extended producer responsibility (setting up SIRAP or joining a SCRAP, management, financing, reuse, DRS, reporting of information on placing on the market and management of packaging).
The pallet has a high degree of dispersion once it enters into circulation for logistics and transport tasks, which makes its control and traceability extremely difficult with current means. It is a reusable, tertiary or transport and commercial/industrial packaging, widely used in all industries and sectors (both nationally and internationally). In Spain, more than 1,200 million movements of this type of packaging take place every year. It is a consumable on a daily basis and in large quantities. It is a basic and repetitive cost in the production cost chain of any company that requires proper management and from which significant cost savings can be obtained by recovering and reusing them.
Among the objectives of RD 1055/2022 is the correct management by producers of the packaging they place on the market, encouraging reuse first, followed by recovery and finally disposal.
Producers (through SIRAP or SCRAP) will have to report to the competent authorities on the quantity of packaging placed on the market and its management (collection, reuse, preparation for reuse, recovery). It is therefore essential to have a tool for monitoring the traceability of this type of packaging.
The correct management of waste is one of the driving forces behind the development of the circular economy; far from being an obligation, it is an opportunity. The reuse of commercial and industrial packaging, such as pallets, will lead to significant economic savings for all packaging companies.
Logistics, quality, reuse and traceability are the three keys to this correct management of packaging and, of course, the collaboration of all the agents affected (producers, managers, holders administrations) because we all have SHARED RESPONSIBILITIES.
Source: Own elaboration
Author: Pablo Mariñas Martínez; General Manager; Ecophir Recicla
ECOPHIR RECICLA S.L. has been set up as an entity designed to offer comprehensive tailor-made solutions to all entities and economic agents affected by extended producer responsibility in relation to commercial and industrial packaging placed on the market. It is one of the five production companies that make up the JANÉ MORRAJA business group, a group with more than 30 years of experience in the management (recovery and reuse) and manufacture of wooden pallets.
 Packers or economic agents dedicated to the import or acquisition in other Member States of the European Union of packaged products to be placed on the market.
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