Business case: Design for circularity of food - contact plastic packaging – Israel


Plastic packaging plays a crucial role in our daily lives, efficiently preserving its contents while engaging consumers. However, the growing issue of plastic waste presents a challenge. The OECD states that global plastic waste production has doubled over the last two decades and Israel is one of the top consumers of single-use plastics compared to other OECD nations. Despite the recyclability of materials like Polypropylene (PP) and Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), only a fraction of the plastic packaging that is put on the market gets recycled.

Package Redesign - case study

The Government of Israel has set a goal to achieve a 70% recycling rate for packaging waste by 2030. Other governments, including the EU with the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, are following a similar path. In response, global brands are now setting ambitious targets to introduce fully recyclable packaging on the market. This shift is also driven by changed consumer preferences towards more sustainable products, resulting global increase in the demand for recycled plastic resins.

The scope of the pilot project

In Israel, about 150 million “sleeved cups” are manufactured each year, and if the sleeve and cup are not made of the same material, the package  is misclassified as non-recyclable waste and ends up in landfills or incineration. Designing for sortability is a critical  approach for creating efficient and sustainable packaging solutions.

Since 2019, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has within the regional EU-funded SwitchMed Programme explored ways to enhance circularity in Israel’s plastic value chain. UNIDO, along with industry associations, government institutions, and expert organizations, engaged local stakeholders to demonstrate a business model for improving plastic packaging applications.

As part of this initiative a pilot project was undertaken with the objective to increase the recyclability of existing plastic packaging by changing its design. The Sustainable Packaging Guide by the Israeli Manufacturer Association, and the UNIDO “SwitchMed Sustainable Packaging Tool” were utilized to demonstrate the use of international best practices for a set of products.

The re-design of packaging needs to match the specific technical parameters and limitations of existing waste sorting facilities in the country. Therefore, the participation of the Israeli Producer Responsibility Organization  (TMIR) was crucial for the success of the pilot.

 two Israeli companies, Strauss and Osem, local subsidiaries of respectively Danone and Nestlé, were chosen to participate in the pilot and work was conducted with each of them to re-design the packaging of two of their flagship products (yoghurt and salad).

Presentation of project results

The pilot project and solution

The packaging for the two selected products consists of a PP cup and a Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol (PETG) sleeve. While PP and PETG are fully recyclable separately, when combined this is no longer the case. Due to the fact that the PETG sleeve is covering a large portion of the cup, the infrared sensor (NIR) at the sorting station is diverting the product to the non-recyclable stream. Different alternatives were examined, and the selected approach was to change the sleeve material to Polyolefin (PO) so that the entire packaging (sleeve + cup) can easily be identified by the NIR and diverted to the appropriate recycling  stream.

During the pilot project, the identified solution demonstrated to be effective in every stage of the value chain, from packaging manufacturing and sleeving to sorting and recycling. Several value chain actors, including Tadbik (sleeve manufacturer), Madaf Plazit (cups producer and sleevingoperator), Osem / Strauss (consumer product manufacturer), demonstrated a strong collaboration and active engagement to perform quality assurance tests to validate the solution’s applicability at every step. These tests covered sleeve manufacturing, sleeving processes, and filling tests, ensuring the consistency and reliability of the redesigned packaging throughout the manufacturing and filling stages.

The newly designed packaging also underwent testing at TMIR sorting plant. A test plan was carried out on 100 samples, and the new package was easily identified and sorted for recycling with a 100% identification rate. The sorting test provides a high level of confidence that the redesigned package is fully compatible with the existing sorting infrastructure, ensuring smooth and seamless integration into the waste sorting process.

The results and key takeaways

The life-cycle assessment conducted throughout the value chain revealed that the redesigned package is significantly more sustainable. Specifically, when accounting for raw material extraction, production, use, and end-of-life treatment, the redesigned packaging had a 49% lower carbon footprint, 60% lower fossil resource use, and 84% lower minerals and metals resource use compared to the original packaging using a PETG sleeve that was incinerated. The substantial efficiency improvements are largely attributed to the recycling of the PO sleeve, which avoids the impacts of virgin material extraction and processing. In contrast, diversion for recycling avoids the environmental impacts of incinerating the PETG sleeve , which is the current EoL option. The economical analysis revealed that even if the cost of the PO sleeve compared to conventional PETG sleeve is 19% higher, the costs increase of the total redesigned packaging (cup + sleeve) is only 8%while the impact on retail price estimate of the entire product is less than 0.3%. This cost difference can be either absorbed by brands as the recyclability of the packaging will increase their brand reputation , or by the final consumer willing to pay a premium for more sustainable products.

In addition, the re-design of the packaging will generate economic benefits to other actors of the value chain such as Tmir. For instance, instead of paying a fee of 7.5€ per ton of unsorted plastic waste for the landfill of the non-recyclable packaging, TMIR can generate an estimated revenue of 250€ per ton of plastic waste sold to recyclers.

Upscaling recommendations

The pilot project demonstrated the feasibility of transforming non-sortable and non-recyclable packaging into a sortable, recyclable solution that can be applied horizontally and vertically within the plastic value chain in Israel. The demonstrated solutions offer a versatile and sustainable approach to packaging.

Major food and beverage brands that actively participated in this initiative, showed a commitment to the concept of “Designing for recyclability” to mitigate the environmental impact associated with plastic packaging and are motivated to continue to  review their product portfolio to consistently apply a strategy that can include a packaging design that can better be sorted and recycled.

To promote a shift towards circular packaging, policy changes are essential to motivate manufacturers to adopt recyclable packaging solutions while ensuring compliance. Both regulatory and market-based instruments can be employed, including subsidies and tax benefits. New standards or eco-labels to raise consumers awareness will catalyze the adoption of more recycle packaging at scale. Moreover, an advanced economic model has demonstrated that including the recyclability potential of plastic packaging collected in the EPR scheme, through the introduction of an eco-modulation fee, will make the use of alternative materials for their packaging more profitable for brands.

For more information, contact:

United Nations Industrial Development Organization
Ms. Ulvinur Müge Dolun
Division of Circular Economy and Environmental Protection Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency Unit
Vienna International Centre, P.O. Box 300, 1400 Vienna, Austria E-mail: u.dolun@unido.org Web: www.unido.org

Visit SwitchMed.eu

Funded by the European Union, with co-funding from the Government of Italy and the Government of Catalonia, the SwitchMed Programme is implemented under the lead of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Under the MED TEST III project pathways for industries in the Southern Mediterranean to become more resource efficient and to generate savings for improved competitiveness and environmental performance.


This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union and within the framework of the EU funded SwitchMed programme. Its contents are the sole responsibility of UNIDO and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.