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Closed Loop Recycling: Everything You Need To Know

  • 20th June 2023
  • 8 min read

We all know that negative impacts on the environment are occurring everyday, which is why it’s important that we find new solutions to help save our planet.

One of these solutions is closed loop recycling, but what is it and how can it help reduce the impact of our waste on the earth.

Closed loop recycling is when waste is collected, recycled and produced to make something new. Essentially the recycled material goes through a full circle process where it doesn’t have a negative impact on the environment. 

Materials that can go through the closed loop recycling process include:

  • Glass
  • Plastics 
  • Aluminium
  • Corrugate 

This blog explores everything you need to know about closed loop recycling and how you can start implementing it in your business and home. 

Glass recycling

When glass goes through the closed loop recycling process, unwanted mixed glass in the form of bottles, jars and broken pieces get collected first. Once the glass is segmented and cleaned, it’s then turned into Enviro Glasgrit. This type of glass is high quality, cleaned and processed recycled glass abrasive. Glass abrasives can be used to remove rusting and coating on materials like aluminium, concrete and wood.doesnt glass endlessly recycle?  We are only mentioning glass abrasives here?

Metal can recycling 

When it comes to metal can recycling it goes through a similar process to glass recycling. For example, the metal cans that go through mixed recycling facilities are separated to remove any aluminium materials. The metal is then crushed, cleaned, rolled out and cut using machinery to create new cans.

At Biffa they have two Material Recycling Facilities known as MFRs within the UK. These can currently segment, decontaminate and process materials like aluminium and steel cans, as well as plastic bottles, plastic containers, cardboard and paper. 

LDPE Plastic recycling 

At Titan packaging we work with manufacturers in the UK who are able to provide a closed loop solution for items such as polythene mailer bags. The facilities aim to reduce the environmental impact of plastic recycling by moving it away from landfill, cleaning it and manufacturing them into new products. This has an added benefit for our customers as it means we can add at least 30% recycled material into their bags which ensures they don't have to pay the plastic packaging tax.

FSC cardboard

Another way to move towards closed-loop recycling is by using FSC certified cardboard. FSC stands for The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC), which is a not-for-profit, international membership organisation that aims to protect and maintain sustainable forest management across the globe.

When companies opt for FSC certification material such as cardboard and paper,  they’re actively using materials from well-managed forests and other sustainable,  recycled sources.

Why should we be creating a circular economy?

Dunia Brunner wrote an article for Nespresso discussing how the current linear recycling  model isn’t working for both people and the planet. Due to this we should be creating a circular economy. This can be achieved through applying the R framework, such as the 3Rs, the 6Rs or even the 9Rs. These stand for:

  • Refuse
  • Rethink
  • Reduce
  • Reuse 
  • Repair
  • Refurbish
  • Remanufacture
  • Repurpose 
  • Recycle
  • Recover

Brunner suggests 5 business models that can be adopted to help achieve a circular economy, such as:

    • Product as a service models - This is where you should focus on selling a service rather than a product
  • Leasing models
      - This is where you create incentives for designing and building longer lasting products 
  • Sharing models
      - This is where you create products that can benefit from shared use, access and ownership
  • Eco-design product
      - This is where you should focus on implementing ecological aspects into your products, key activities and value propositions
  • Resource recovery models
    - This is where you recover materials, resources and energy from disposed products or by products

Why is closed loop recycling important?

Closed loop recycling is important for a number of reasons, such as:

  • It helps to preserve natural resources
  • It minimises the risk of harm to the environment, including wildlife
  • It creates space in landfill for materials that cannot be recycled
  • It reduces pollution

Recycling reduces the need for harvesting raw materials, meaning our planet can be left to thrive. 

How achievable is closed loop recycling? 

Closed loop recycling is a step in the right direction, however there’s still more to be done. Since 2013, the UK’s recycling rates have stayed between 44 and 45%. This is due to there being a lack of recycling facilities, not enough public information being given out and there being differences in local authority recycling. As a result of these things, closed loop recycling isn’t operating as efficiently as it could be. 

Due to this, open loop recycling is a good option for those using materials that can’t go through the closed loop process. 

Rather than focusing on supply chain sustainability like closed loop recycling, open loop recycling turns products into something different to their original intended purpose, meaning materials can be converted into a new raw material. 

One company who uses open  loop methods successfully is  Panasonic where their work is making huge impacts on the planet. In Japan, Panasonic’s PETEC facility is able to recycle machines like washing machines, refrigerators and HVAC units that have seen better days. During the process they extract refrigeration gases and earth minerals to either recycle or sell them. 

This process is making a huge impact on the environment and even recycles products from other companies. 

Where possible companies should aim to take part in closed loop recycling as open loop simply delays materials going to landfill rather than stopping them from going to landfill altogether. 

In conclusion closed loop recycling is achievable depending on the materials used by a company and the ability of a company being able to implement relevant activities into their business processes. For those unable to do this, they should focus on open loop activities until they’re able to start implementing closed-loop processes.

How to achieve closed loop recycling 

Implementing relevant closed loop recycling activities into your daily routine will have a massive positive impact on the environment. One way in which you can do this is through making sure your household is recycling properly. This includes washing out containers and putting the right items in the right bins. 

You could also make a conscious decision to only buy recyclable products or reduce the amount of items you buy that can’t be recycled. 

In terms of businesses achieving closed loop recycling, we’re also seeing a lot of companies, including supermarkets like Tesco, making the effort to move toward closed loop recycling processes and stopping the use of single-use plastics. Having more companies taking part in recycling activities and only producing recyclable products makes it easier for those of us at home to make better decisions for our planet.

Companies can also implement closed loop recycling into their business practices through:

    • Recycling responsibly - Identify valuable materials used within your business such as aluminium, glass and and cardboard boxes
  • Use compost
      - Composting is the most natural form of closed-loop recycling. Using organic materials like plant and food waste can be turned into materials rich in nutrients perfect for fertilisation
  • Make smarter purchasing decisions
    - Moving away from using single-use plastics can save your business money in the long run and can help to evolve your supply chain

When looking at your packaging processes it’s important that you also look into EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility). This is where businesses need to take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products. To learn more about EPR, read our blog.

If you’re looking to improve the materials you use within your packaging, a single source packaging supplier could be perfect for you as they provide:

  • Better cost savings
  • Reduced admin and improved invoicing
  • Improved stock management and holding 
  •  Streamlined deliveries
  • Consistent materials and processes
  • Efficient packaging processes 

Get in touch with Titan Packaging today to see how we can help you find your next packaging solution.


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Written by: Anna Punch Sales Director

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