Why Schoeller Allibert is ahead on the recycling market

With its recent ‘plastic packaging tax’, the European Union wants to reduce non-recycled plastic packaging waste. That’s good news for the environment and for Schoeller Allibert. With its decades of recycling experience, and high ambitions for the near future, Europe’s market leader in returnable plastic packaging is firmly in pole position of the continent’s emerging recycling market.  

From 1st of January 2021, the European Union collects from each member state a levy of €0.8 per kilogram of the non-recycled plastic packaging waste it produces each year. This so-called plastic packaging levy, which is part of the EU’s Green Deal, should net between €6 and €8 billion annually¹.

Powerful incentives

Those contributions (not ‘taxes’, strictly speaking) are proving to be powerful incentives for member states to introduce measures to reduce plastic waste. While the specifics of those measures vary per member state, the intended effect is the same: to discourage the use of ‘virgin’ plastic and incentivise recycling.

From 1 April 2022, even Britain, now outside the EU, will institute its own plastic packaging tax, of £200 per ton. It’s an indication of the social and political consensus across the continent that the plastic waste problem needs to be dealt with. 

Radical shift

In other words: we’re at the start of a radical shift in how we deal with plastic packaging. You would expect that to be bad news for Schoeller Allibert, a world player and European leader when it comes to plastic packaging.

But you’d be wrong. The company has a longer track record than most when it comes to sustainability and the circular economy. Already back in the 1980s, Schoeller Allibert started grinding up end-of-life plastic packaging crates, recycling them into raw material for new ones. Initially, the incentives were that this was easier than buying new raw materials. Soon, however, the environment became an added motivation for the company’s drive towards more recycling. In other words: the mindset at Schoeller Allibert has shifted towards circularity many decades ago.

An example. One of Schoeller Allibert’s bottle crates can last 10 to 15 years of being used and re-used again. After that period, it is recycled into a… new bottle crate. This closed-loop approach can reduce the carbon footprint of that crate by a factor 7² (depending on the product design).

Better choice

That makes returnable transport packaging of this kind a better choice in terms of carbon footprint than any of the alternatives. It makes sense: if those bottle crates last up to 15 years and can be melted down up to seven times, it means today’s materials purchased will last for many decades. Many other packaging alternatives, on the other hand, end up in the landfill or will be incinerated straight after their first (and only) use.

In fact, this moment represents the historic shift that Schoeller Allibert has been working towards, says Ludo Gielen, the company’s CEO: “In the past 25 years, we have prepared the ground, and the next 25 years, we’ll see the breakthrough in the circular economy. We are delighted to be able to contribute to a better planet for our children.”

Lofty words, backed up by strong ambitions. In 2020, Schoeller Allibert’s products contained an average of 21% recycled material. That is projected to rise to 35% by 2026. The company aims to achieve 100% circularity by 2050. Schoeller Allibert’s products are not only recyclable, they are also in practise being recycled; and we made a commitment that from 2023, all Schoeller Allibert’s new products will be fully recyclable. An exact fit with the company’s mantra: “If we can’t re-use it, we refuse it!”

Product range

Sustainability is but one of the many qualities of Schoeller Allibert’s products. The company also offers an extensive range of assets to serve the recycling industry. Here are some key examples:

  • Together with Waste Free Oceans (WFO), Schoeller Allibert in 2021 produced a box made largely from recycled fishing gear. This doesn’t just save primary resources – it actively upcycles used fishing gear otherwise destined for incineration.

  • The company has an entire range of products made from post-consumer plastic (i.e. plastic waste from general consumption) – appropriately called CircuLine®. These packaging products help reduce virgin plastic consumption without compromising on quality or performance.

  • Because of Schoeller Allibert’s focus on recycling, its products are much appreciated by the recycling industry. Large boxes like the Maxilog® or the BigBox Classic 1210 are perfect for collecting and transporting all kinds of waste – from general waste to hazardous or dangerous goods. Maxilog® boxes are available in various colours, to facilitate the processing of various separate waste streams. Other variants are perfect for chemical waste, long fluorescent lamps, and so on…

  • Other waste packaging is designed for very specific purposes. The 4H2 UN Kaiman is perfect for collecting and transporting end-of-life bicycle batteries, for example. The UN Geobox 4H2 does the same for used lithium-ion batteries. The Magnum Optimum 1125 is designed for recycling used tv screens. 

Key concepts

Schoeller Allibert’s strategic aim of increased recycling has long made sense from the perspective of cost and convenience. Additionally, it fits perfectly with the more recent, and more urgent goals of achieving ecological sustainability and economic circularity.

The two come together in many a practical way. Re-used plastic packaging is good for the environment; but plastic packaging per se is lighter than other alternatives, which helps reduce the CO2 footprint of those who use it.

March 18 is Global Recycling Day – an annual reminder that re-using materials is the best way to both preserve our limited resources and reduce waste.

As sustainability and the circular economy become key concepts for all corporates, Schoeller Allibert is set to benefit from its decades-long experience in repurposing its plastic packaging materials. Experience condensed into the company’s mantra, which we’re appropriately recycling here: “If we can’t re-use it, we refuse it!”

¹ https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2021/09/plastic-tax.html

² References to page 28 in Schoeller Alliberts Sustainability publication - https://schoellerallibert.com/_assets/brochures/2022-01-Schoeller-Allibert-Sustainability-Publication.pdf