What is the Circular Economy and why is everybody talking about it?
Nowadays, the world has a linear production model based on take (extract), make (manufacture), use and dispose. Raw materials are extracted from the nature and transformed into products that are used for a while. Once the products lose their economic, physical or functional value, they are disposed, becoming waste. Some of this waste is treated and goes to the recycling stream, but most of it is incinerated or disposed at the landfill.
This linear model based on take (extract), make (manufacture), use and dispose leads to an unlimited growth of the production and the resources consumption. Moreover, when it comes the end-life of the product, the final destiny of the product depends only on the consumer or the waste-management companies.
Linear Production. Image from Ecova (2015).
In 2012, Europe starts to talk about Circular Economy, even that the term has become more and more popular lately.
But what is the Circular Economy?
Looking beyond the current take, make and dispose extractive industrial model, the Circular Economy is restorative and regenerative by design. Relying on system-wide innovation, it aims to redefine products and services to design waste out, while minimising negative impacts. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital. Under this model, raw materials are reused once they become waste, transforming all the production system into a closed circle. Therefore, the product is reused and repaired until it is recycled, becoming a new resource. This sustainable model saves the extraction and destruction of materials and it boosts to use the materials at the most.
Circular production. Image from Ecova (2015).
As it is seen at the image above, Circular Economy is not only based on recycling. It is a change of the whole consumption system, from the design of the products and the way the factories manufacture until the way the consumers consume.
A lot of companies are already changing their activities and starting to use strategies that lead to the Circular Economy. That is the reason why everybody is talking about it, also in the plastic sector.
Do you want to understand better what are the Circular Economy strategies about?
Let's see some examples:
Design to last. In a fire station in California there is the Centennial light, the worlds' longest burning light bulb which is working since 1901. Nowadays it seems impossible to have a bulb, a mobile phone or even a pair of shoes that last more than two years. Circular Economy tries to achieve a long-life for the materials that are being used, until they cannot be more reused or repaired and must be recycled. An example of 'designed to last' action has been taken by Dockers clothes brand. A pair of years ago, they redesign their trousers; they reinforce the pockets and buttonholes in order to make the trousers last longer.
Circular Economy action by Dockers. Image from Dockers.
Design to repair and recycle. One of the critical points of the Circular Economy model is that many products are not easy to repair or recycle (Do you remember one of our posts where we explained how the combination of some materials affect the recyclability?). For this reason, some companies have decided to change the design of their products so they can be easily repaired or recycled. Taking the recycling as an example, the technological company Dell designs its computers in a way that all the pieces can be separate, which makes them easily to recycle. The use of compatible materials - some of them recycled! - and the reduction of inks and adhesives in the packaging boosts the recyclability of them.
Circular Economy action by Dell. Image from Dell.
Product as a service. The Circular Economy defends the temporary possession of the things, also known as renting. It prioritizes the use over the possession. That strategy allows the manufacturer to take care of the reparation and the recycle of the product. The jeans company Mud Jeans is using this idea and since 2015 you can lease a jeans. After a year paying a low monthly fee, you can decide whether if you finally keep the jeans or you change them for a new pair. If you decide to change, the company collects and recycles them.
Circular Economy action by Mud Jeans. Image from Mud Jeans.
Waste collection and recycling. Once a product has been repaired and reused, the ideal end is - according to the Circular Economy model - to be recycled. Sometimes, the recycled material is used again to manufacture the same products. Sometimes, the recycling companies give value to the waste finding a new market where it becomes raw material. An example of waste collection and recycling can be find in this company. Ciclic recovers post-petrochemical and post-industrial plastic, closing the loop of the plastic production. Ciclic reduces the raw material extraction and the waste generation.
Circular Economy in GCR Group.
As you see, GCR Group is key for the development of the Circular Economy in the plastic sector. For this reason, last May GCR Group was chosen by ACC1Ó as one of the ten companies with success stories on the Circular Economy.
You can download the document (in catalan) here.
Why do we use Carbon Footprint to measure sustainability?
Carbon Footprint is a way of measuring the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emitted during an activity or a product production. This GHG data is given in carbon dioxide (CO2) kilos meaning that GHG emissions are transformed into CO2 emissions, providing a measurable, uniform and comparable data.
GHG emissions are obtained through Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of an activity or a product's life. LCA analyzes GHG emissions in each stage so you can see the critical points of the activity or the production.
To measure the Carbon Footprint of a product, LCA quantifies the emissions of each stage of the production, from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling. This LCA is known as from cradle to grave because the product is analyzed since its origins until its end-life. However, for many products is hard to do a full-life analysis as sometimes the consumer of the products or its habits are unknown. In these cases, LCA includes from cradle to gate, from raw material extraction through materials processing and manufacture until the product leaves the company.
Therefore, Carbon Footprint is a way to evaluate how contaminant an activity or a product is in each of their stages.
Diagram of the stages included from cradle to grave. Image from CSDS Pratt - Center for sustainable Design Strategies
Ciclic and Granic case
GCR Group products are Carbon Footprint certified, meaning that LCA from cradle to gate of each product has been done under ISO 14040 and 14044. By the application of PAS2050 norm, CO2 emissions of all the range of products have been obtained. Carbon Footprint has been certified by TÜV Rheinland.
The results show a lower Carbon Footprint than conventional petrochemical polymers. For example, to manufacture a ton of Granic 422, 81% less CO2 emissions are emitted in comparison with the same amount of virgin polyethylene (PE).
CO2 reduction examples in raw materials when different grades of Granic are used.
But, ¿why is GCR Group product's Carbon Footprint so low?
GCR Group products low Carbon Footprint is a result of an extensive sustainability policy where environment is the center of all GCR Group activities. This low impact is due to the following actions:
* Raw materials origins. Some of the GCR Group products contain minerals (calcium carbonate, talc). Minerals are natural elements easily and widely found in the nature. The other raw materials are post-industrial and petrochemical waste, a residue that was going to be disposed. By recovering it, GCR Group gives a second life to waste.
* Location. The company is less than 40 kilometers away from 90% of the suppliers. This fact has a positive impact on the CO2 emissions related to raw material transportation.
* Production. The patented Irtion technology provides a more efficient energetic consumption therefore energy consumption decreases. Moreover, GCR Group uses renewable energy sources.
* Packaging. Granic's packaging is manufactured with Granic, significantly decreasing packaging's Carbon Footprint.
These CO2 emissions reductions in raw materials have also an impact in final product emissions. On top of that, when the customer uses Granic, Carbon Footprint is even lower as mineral thermoconductivity is higher, meaning the material can be heat up and cool down faster. Consequently, the producer will consume less energy on the manufacturing stage with Granic than with virgin polymers.
All these reasons made of Granic and Ciclic sustainable solutions for the plastic sector.
In conclusion, Carbon Footprint permits an objective and quantitative evaluation of the environmental impact of a product or an activity.
Plastic packaging recycling: can we do something to improve it?
Today 17th of May is the International Recycling Day. Did you know that Spain is at the TOP 3 of the European Plastic Recycling? 74.8% of the plastic waste was recycled in 2015. Data from 2016 is still unknown but it looks like the numbers are even better. Watching the same situation from another point of view, we could say that 25% of plastic packaging waste is still NOT recycled. Is this not-recycled percentage due to bad classification? Not necessarily. There is always a portion of this plastic packaging waste that cannot be recycled even that the citizens separate the waste and drop it in the correct trash bin. So the reason for this 25% not-recycled plastic is the packaging characteristics.
In a perfect world, packaging should be developed with a single material – or a combination of related materials. Related materials are compatible between them and their recycling doesn't produce a worst plastic in terms of quality, meaning that they can be recycled as a single material. Unfortunately, most of the times several materials should be combined due to the manufacturers/consumers needs – we need packaging that extends food shelf life, easily opened or simply beautiful). Those are the type of packaging you can find in this 25% of not-recycled.
There are hundreds of reasons that affect packaging recyclability and, being honest, most of them don't rely on consumers' classification but on design. Even that, could we THE CONSUMERS do something to improve plastics packaging recycling? The answer is YES. Consumers can do a lot. Below, we talk about five everyday actions to improve plastics packaging recyclability.
1. Avoid black or strong colours packaging
Waste sorting plants separate packaging regarding their composition (type of polymer). After that, they send it to the specific recycling plant.
Part of that classification is automatically realized by optical separators. The explanation of the optical separators mechanism is quite simple: the optical separators emit light upon the packaging and, depending on which kind of light comes back, the separators detect which type of plastic is. But colour is crucial in the selection process, as those packaging with black or very strong colours are able to absorb more light causing mistakes in this automatic classification.
To avoid this problem, we can choose: when in doubt, pick the product with lighter colours on its packaging.
2. Labels: out!
Labels and the glue used to stick them have important consequences on packaging recyclability. Maybe you noticed that labels are pasted with fewer glue and they can be stripped all together so you don't leave label rests on the packaging. This is due to an environmental concert, to avoid glue remainders. But glue is not the only problem. We can also find an incompatibility on the materials; for instance a lot of labels are paper based or done with a different plastic than the one from the packaging. Even that we cannot decide labels compositions neither the amount of glue used, we can strip the labels before drop the packaging into the trash. Doing this simple act, we can be sure that label will not be an inconvenience when this packaging is going to be recycled.
3. Do not forget about lids and seals
Yogurts, instant coffee, moisturising cream or toothpaste. In all of these products, aluminium seals and lids are usually found. These seals and lids jeopardise the packaging recyclability. What can you do? If you are going to dispose any of those packaging on the trash, be aware of removing the entire lid. And don't leave any traces of aluminium on the plastic packaging!
4. Caps and bottles. Better together? No
As seen with lids and seals, bottle caps can also be done with a different material than the one used for the bottle. Bottle producers are more and more concerned about environmental issues and some of them are starting to manufacture bottles and cups with the same material - or with related materials. Nevertheless, if you are not a plastic expert, it will be very difficult to differentiate them. Therefore, the easiest way to be environmentally committed is to separate the cap from the bottle before dispose them on the trash. And don't forget to take out the small plastic ring that rests on the bottle.
5. If you can, escape from too cool packaging
Wood and plastic, plastic and metal and all the combinations you can think about. Beautiful? Yep. Recyclable? Not at all.
Every small action for the environment is important.
Let's help the environment by improving the recyclability. Let's make International Recycling Day every day.
Does plastic actually kill?
Plastic kills. This is what you can read in the store window of a shop well known by its environmental commitment – in fact, it is presented as ‘synonym of love towards nature and respect towards life’ in its manifesto. This Shop has joined the last anti-plastic campaign promoted by Plastic Pollution Coalition in a very visible way: selling stainless steel bottles* and cotton* bags and t-shirts with a ‘Plastic Kills’ claim printed on them.
Due to our business nature – we develop plastic solutions, a material that by the way has not found any other competitor that meets the same requirements and has the same advantages – and our environmental commitment, we had to write this post.
In this post we do not pretend to explain how plastic has a lower environmental impact in comparison to other materials for most of its applications. We do not pretend that because many scientists and investigators have already proved it. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is the method used to analyze the environmental impact of a material when it is used in a specific application. You can have a look at this LCA done by the UK Environment Agency of a supermarket bag where it is shown that a cotton* bag (yep! as the cotton bags sold by THE Shop) needs to be reused 131 times in order to be more sustainable than a plastic one. This means that if the plastic bag is reused, the cotton bag reuse needs to rise until 262 times. Or the study Plastic Vs cardboard: which is greener in packaging? done by Exter University for Riverford Organic Food, an organic food company that wanted to evaluate the environmental impacts of every aspect of their business, including packaging. Guess what? Plastic packaging was better than carton packaging in terms of sustainability. Or this LCA of a stainless steel* bottle (yes! the same bottles that THE Shop sells) proving that stainless steel bottles need to be reuse 500 times to beat the sustainability of a PET bottle. So imagine if PET bottles are reused one time – stainless steel bottles need to be reuse by 1.000 times. (About LCA of plastic Vs other materials in packaging, bags or other applications, you will easily find studies on the Internet, but we left you some here and here for you to read if you are interested).
But as we were saying, this post is not about the environmental benefits of plastic because it is already proved (by scientists!). This post is about the claim of the anti-plastic campaign: Does plastic actually kill?
Let’s see some data:
• Plastic extends shelf life of food. Therefore, it increases the availability of food for consumers. For example, unwrapped cucumbers lose so much moisture that they become unsaleable after three days; just 1.5 grams of plastic keeps them fresh for 14 days. Moreover, food can travel farther and the food production can slow down a little.
From the book Why Shrinkwrap a Cucumber?: The Complete Guide to Environmental Packaging de Steven Aldridge
• Plastic protect food, improving quality and increasing food security. Plastic packaging protects the contents from hazards such as vibration, moisture, heat, odours, light penetration, micro-organism or pest infestation.
• Therefore, fewer artificial additives are needed. Removing preservatives from foods – to have more ‘natural’ food – is possible thanks to plastic packaging that provides better protection.
• Plastic supplies water to many African Countries. Unfortunately, there are still many places in the world where water is not easily accessible for its inhabitants. Countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso or Ghana are drinking water in plastic bags as it is the safest and cheapest solution (plastic bottles are much more expensive than plastic bags). Thanks to plastic, millions of families have potable water access. In fact, in 2014 Ivory Coast protested over plastic bag ban. It was estimated that a ban on plastic bags would block water access to 200,000 families in Ivory Coast.
Images from Wikipedia and TrashyBags
If plastic has all these advantages, why does plastic have so bad reputation?
Because plastic is a very visible material with terrible environmental consequences if it is not left in the proper place by the end of its life. If plastic is not reused. If it is not dropped in the rubbish bin once it is reused. If it is not recycled because the rubbish bin where it has been placed has not been the appropriate one. In conclusion, if consumers do not act properly after plastic life cycle. And to do so, more environmental education and awareness is needed.
If you do the exercise of searching on the Internet ‘Plastic Kills’, you will find several images of animals eating plastic bags or pieces dropped in the sea. Please note that dropped is not a passive action – somebody has to drop things. Actually, people do. This is the reason why responsibility should rely on people and not in the material. Plastic doesn’t kill, the lack of environmental education does. Plastic doesn’t kill, irresponsibility does. Don’t blame plastics; blame all of us and the moment when we forget our commitment with the future generations. Because if we apply this principle to everything, we could ban lighters (they can start a fire), chew gums (if birds find them on the floor, they can eat them and die) or cars (accidentally, they kill people too).
In conclusion, responsibility is not on the object but on the user. So let’s stop blaming the material – in order to sell other materials, by the way – and let's assume our responsibility as consumers.
Three stories of 2016
The end of the year is the classic time to make balance. What was the best of 2016? What was the worst? Which are the numbers of the year? Yes, we like balances. Actually, all the companies should like it! But we are not going to write about numbers. Instead, we have decided to explain you three stories of 2016 in GCR Group. So here it comes; this is a tinny part of how our 2016 has been like.
Oncotrail. Oncontrail is a 100 Km relay race done by an eight people team. There must always be four people running and the relays are done every 8 to 15 km. Crazy, right? It is, but there is a good reason behind; the raised funds are used to improve cancer investigation. And this was a great motivation for us, so in 2015 we decided to run the Oncotrail for the first time. The strong effort made us feel so good that we wanted to repeat in 2016. But this year has been more special... One year ago, our colleague Xavier was sadly diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, Xavier had a new and huge challenge in front of him. He was going to fight, for sure. He is one of the most optimist and cheerful persons I ever met. But somehow, the GCR team wanted to fight with him. As a result, a lot of us participate in the Oncotrail. We ran the Oncotrail and we ran it for you, Xavier.
K Show. Every three years, the biggest event on the plastic industry takes place in Düsseldorf. Three years ago, GCR Group had a stand in the exhibition for the first time. This year we have assisted again with a bigger stand and a bigger team but with the same illusion as the first time. For us, the K2016 has been a success. We want to thank to all of those who passed through our stand. It has been a pleasure to meet you!
Christmas’ Video. Since three years ago, Christmas video is an event in the company. In 2014, we decided to show you who are the faces behind GCR Group (here). In 2015, this faces became actors, and all the people in GCR enjoyed the recording day (remember it here). This year, we decided to show you how Christmas sounds in GCR Group. Many of us spend a whole day typing, clicking pens, bumping Granic FFS bags, shaking Ciclic grades and many other actions that emit any sound. You can see the result here.
Thank you very much for this 2016. Many stories to come next year! Hope you all have a great 2017!
Five reasons to visit K2016
As you all know, K Show is the World’s number one Trade Fair for Plastics and Rubber. The countdown is on and from GCR Group we want to show you at least five reasons to visit the fair.
Are you still preparing your visit? Then don’t miss our list:
1. THE CONFERENCES.
K2016 is a great moment to learn from the best experts in the Plastics and Rubber market. The companies will have all their teams in Düsseldorf, ready to explain what makes them great. Some companies also organize Technical Talks with invited guests from other companies. This is the case of Dow and the Faces of Innovation talks, where GCR Group will be presenting the mineral masterbatch development for Extrusion Coating (Thursday, 20 October, 15:00-15:30, K48 Hall8a). ExxonMobil also organizes Tech Talks and we are invited to present the high-quality bag developed with Granic1522 together with ExxonMobil, CMD and Kivo. (Friday, 21 October 17:00 and Tuesday 25 October, 10:00, FG4, Hall4). For these conferences and presentations, K2016 it’s an ideal occasion to learn more about the market and the innovations.
2. THE MACHINERY, THE EQUIPMENT AND THE SAMPLES.
How many times you will be able to see hundreds of extruders working at the same time? Huge blown film machines, raffia lines producing perfect raffia tapes and tacking them… What I am describing is the landscape of the Messe Düsseldorf during the K Show. K2016 means having the latest equipments running, producing tons of plastic products and... can you imagine what? Most of the times you can pick beautiful and tempting samples (I have to say that I have hundreds of pretty printed bottle caps at home from the last K. Yes, it might look as if I took too much of them but, believe me, they seemed so necessary for my life back then!). This year, the CMD stand (Hall 3, G05) will be producing bags with Granic1522 – yes, the same ones that will be explained in the ExxonMobil Tech Talks. You will be able to take samples of the bags and see the CMD machines running with Granic! Moreover, in the Alpine Hosokawa booth (Hall 16, D06) there will also be samples of breathable film produced with Granic476 and Alpine Hosokawa’s technology. So, yes, K2016 is a perfect moment to see machines, equipments and samples.
3. THE MARKET TRENDS.
When plastic is your passion, you spend part of your time learning and reading about it. Plastic is fantastic, that is a fact we all know. But the world is changing and the consumers’ habits are changing too, so new plastic products are launched to find a solution for a new need. The K Fair is the perfect event to show the new plastic products and, therefore, to understand the new markets’ needs. For example, in GCR Group, we have seen an increasing environmental concern from many customers, which has lead us to keep improving our sustainability. Our raw materials selection, the low energy production and our location have reduced even more our Carbon Footprint in comparison with the 2013 data. We will explain you about our environmental commitment if you come to visit us in our booth (Hall 8a, K27).
4. THE NETWORK.
Have I told you already that the best experts in the Plastics and Rubber market will be in Düsseldorf?
Isn’t that enough to understand how important is the K2016?
The seventh most populous city in Germany is one of the country’s foremost economic, transport and cultural centers. Theaters, museums, arts and history institutes are all around. The Rhine, bordering the city, creates a perfect mixture between the city and the nature, giving Düsseldorf a cosmopolitan outlook. And well, let’s not forget about the Altbier!
What about you? Do you have more reasons to go to the K2016?
If you want to plan your visit to the K2016, you should download the map on here,
We hope to see you in our stand K27 at Hall 8a. We are ready to explain you our new solutions for the market. See you there!
Andrea Guiu – Communication Specialist.
Welcome to GCR Group's blog
Three years after the first GCR Group website, we are relaunching the site. We use the verb relaunch because this website is not completely new. As you will see, the image is quite the same as three years ago. However, some changes have been done.
The most obvious change is this Blog. Rich communication, where ideas and opinions are shared, is a model that fits much more with the world we are living in. Social Networks success consists in the ability of sharing experiences and ideas as we noticed three years ago when we update our Social Networks (you can find us on LinkedIn and Twitter). Following this experience, this year we decided to create a channel where GCR Group could communicate in a more effective and direct way, which is this Blog. Here you will find all kind of information about environment, customer service, logistics, studies, our products and the plastic sector. We want to show you our vision.
But some other changes have been done. We launch a new Applications section, larger, more organized, with new applications and Ciclic and/or Granic solutions for each application. And we also present GCR Group's Mission, Vision and Values.
New posts are coming! Meanwhile, you can visit our relaunched website.
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