Beating the competition with circular packaging

13 May 2019 11:56

From cradle to cradle – that’s the circularity Jeffrey Prins from cleaning products firm Orienza is striving to achieve.

 Jeffrey Prins of Orienza in his factory

Jeffrey Prins — Orienza

‘We’ve been noticing a shift in the market for a long time,’ Jeffrey says. ‘There’s lots of demand for certified eco-friendly cleaning products.’

Orienza’s products have borne such a label for quite some time. The label confirms that the ingredients in the cleaning product are not environmentally harmful, or are less harmful than other ingredients used for the same purpose. It means that the cleaning products won’t harm ground water.

Jeffrey says that when he took part in the Circular Business Challenge, he was diving in at the deep end. ‘We started to investigate how we could ensure that not only the fluids, but also the bottles are sustainable. And how could we encourage users to actually recycle the packaging?’

Fortunately, one day an Orienza customer asked for a product that was certified for circularity – the label is known as Cradle to Cradle (C2C). It turned out to be something entirely different than an eco-label. To obtain a C2C label, for example, the cleaning product needs to be concentrated, which means that you use less of the product and less water too. In addition, all the ingredients need to be produced under good working conditions.

‘But the biggest hurdle is making the packaging circular,’ Jeffrey explains. ‘It turned out to be really difficult to switch completely to recycled plastic.’

The C2C label has strict requirements regarding the ingredients that a product can contain. The same applies to its container. ‘Because people don’t always sort plastic carefully enough, it’s possible that substances get mixed up. So for instance there might be something else mixed in with the plastic, like old computer parts or flame retardants. We can’t run that risk.’

Nevertheless, the goal is that in the course of this year, at least half of Orienza’s products will be packaged in recycled plastic. ‘We can only switch to full circularity if there are improvements to sorting and the material flow becomes more homogeneous.’

The costs of the transition to circularity have been lower than expected so far, according to Jeffrey. The certificate itself costs around 10,000 euros. ‘The biggest investment is probably the installation of solar panels at our factory, but we’ll recoup that in the course of time.’ Jeffrey is realizing that doing business more sustainably mainly works in his company’s favor: more and more retailers and wholesalers want to stock cleaning products with such a label and there’s still very little competition. ‘I’d really like to tell my colleagues: don’t get left behind!’