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19th European Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production – Circular Europe for Sustainability: Design, Production and Consumption

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Precycling as a means towards resource efficiency. Systemic solutions for packaging prevention

Germany produces the highest amount of packaging waste within Europe with a peak value of 18.2 million tons in 2015 (Schüler, 2018). The amount of plastic package, for example, has almost doubled since 1995. This increase of packaging waste is related to a change in food practices, e.g. consuming take away food or online ordering of food. It is also related to an increase of functions that consumer packages have to fulfil (e.g. portioning, longer durability of products, handling properties), which is a global trend in industrial countries. Packages have to meet different needs of consumers and interests of actors along the whole value chain. To consider this complex constellation of actors and to avoid a shift of the problems along the value chain (e.g. producers, consumers, disposer), there is a need of systemic solutions for packaging prevention. Moreover, the political and scientific debate – at least in Germany – has focused too much on technical solutions. This is why the junior research group “PuR” (2019-2024) integrates different disciplinary perspectives on the topic to identify innovative precycling strategies that would lead to package free consumption practices. While recycling aims at reducing waste, precycling aims at preventing the emergence of waste from packaging, which is more resource efficient. The junior research group consists of two postdoctoral and four doctoral members that analyse barriers and conditions for packaging prevention from five disciplinary perspectives: sociology, economics, political science, engineering, and psychology. The six members will work together on three packaging case studies from the food and/or cosmetic sectors. An interdisciplinary analytical framework which is based on Social Practice Theory integrates the research projects. Next to scientific output, the group aims at initiating transformations towards precycling within society. To this end, it cooperates with practice partners from industry, civil society and politics, whose ideas and perspectives will be included from the outset of the project through different formats.

Elisabeth Süßbauer
Center for Technology and Society (ZTG), Technische Universität Berlin

Henning Wilts
Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy


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