Global materials science and manufacturing company, Avery Dennison, has teamed up with futures consultancy The Future Laboratory, to provide a strategic framework for action that will accelerate solutions for a zero-waste future and the transition to a circular economy, including outlining key drivers.

The Zero Waste Futures report, available free of charge, draws on experts, features best-practice case studies and details three futures scenarios around biomimicry materials, lifecycle visibility and circular ecosystems.

In addition, it details six immediate focus areas which it says will drive the zero-waste transition, which are:

  • Eco-design, where products are designed waste-free with end-of-life and recyclability built-in at the beginning of the design process;
  • Reframing waste as a valuable resource of raw materials;
  • Increased focus on consumer education around recycling;
  • New legislation to avoid or limit the generation of unnecessary waste;
  • Industry and cross-sector collaboration to propel systemic change; and
  • Widespread adoption of technologies that enable end-to-end supply chain visibility.

Despite already being a major concern, the proliferation of waste and environmental pollution has only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the US EPA, containers and packaging in the country comprise 28 per cent of the waste that ends up in landfill. In December 2020, an estimated three billion packages were shipped for Christmas in the US – an 800 million increase from the year before.

“The sheer scale of global waste has created a renewed sense of urgency,” says Tyler Chaffo, manager, global sustainability, Avery Dennison Smartrac.

“We need cross-sector collaboration and a shared vision to drive system-wide change because the problem must be solved from multiple angles.

“Each sector will need to create calculations around the materials they use, their environmental impact, where waste occurs on the supply chain and where it can be eliminated for the most sustainable outcome.”

The report claims the combination of materials and digital solutions will play a critical role, and a huge part of the problem is invisible waste caused by poor inventory management and overproduction. 

Unique digital IDs are highlighted by the report as a possible solution as it provides end-to-end supply chain transparency, which can make the invisible waste visible by creating more efficient inventory management and allowing businesses to eliminate unnecessary waste. 

“Embedding circular mindsets, materials, technologies and processes within every stage of a product’s life can unlock the incredible potential of a zero-waste future,” explains Rob Groen, marketing manager, films, Avery Dennison Label and Packaging Materials.

“This can also contribute to other related sustainable development goals. The time to change the status quo has well and truly come.”

The launch of the report follows the announcement of atma.ioTM, a new digital venture from Avery Dennison that bridges physical and digital worlds.

The new end-to-end platform will enable circularity by creating, assigning and managing unique digital identities for every physical item in the world.

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