Circular approach

EOL circulariteit

Together with our customers, we look at our products more often from an increasingly circular perspective. The government has expressed its ambition to be a 100% circular economy in 2050. A circular economy means that we abandon the idea that the life cycle of products is a linear process from production to waste. Instead, we need to consider it as a continuous, cyclic (closed) process, with as little as possible waste from products, materials and raw materials taking place. 

For its circular approach, Dillewijn Zwapak makes use of the R-model (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Dutch: Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving; PBL), also known as the R-ladder of circularity. The higher up the ladder, the better. The focus with our customers will be mainly in the higher strategies. This circular approach forces us to consider more often what happens with our products at the end of their life cycle.

Refuse, reduce, recycle

Refuse and rethink
The refusal, reduction or rethinking of our packaging. Is our packaging needed? This is the starting point for circular thinking. Usually, in addition to the packaging being a showpiece of the giver or seller, the packaging serves a purpose, namely to protect the flowers (during transport, bumping, putting down, temperature, wind etc.). Without our packaging, the flowers would not last so long. Nevertheless, we always ask our customers the critical question: is this packaging necessary?

Reduction of raw materials. Commit to less material use. For example, in 2019, Dillewijn Zwapak decided to go from 40 to 35 and 30 micron thickness for the standard range of PP sleeves. We actively ask our customers to go along with us in this. Material savings benefit the entire chain, less material means less raw materials, less transport, less energy etc. Avoiding 're-sleeving' flowers before the product reaches the end customer also makes a reduction.

Logically, we focus on the strategy of recycling. This approach is twofold. Firstly, we are always looking for opportunities to apply recycled material as raw material. With our suppliers, we are increasingly able to replace part of the raw (virgin) materials by recycled raw materials. Secondly, we focus on the end consumer. This concerns communication about material recycling, the so-called disposal instructions. The aim is to achieve as pure as possible waste streams in order to obtain reusable raw materials. We focus our preference on the use of mono-materials. These are simple, so non-composite materials that are easy to recycle.

The PBL (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency) presents six strategies for circularity. The three mentioned above are our most important and fit in well with our business operations and customers. The strategies Reuse, Repair and Remanufacture do not go so well with our technologically simple products. Of course, we always look with our customers at the possibilities per product (group). Recover, or energy recovery from materials (incineration) is the lowest step of the ladder of circularity and does not really fit into a circular economy. We should therefore collectively try to avoid this.

Recycling communication

Not all countries organise waste processing in the same manner. There are even significant differences within countries. To help our (international) customers to recycle products as much as possible (circular economy), from 2019, we started providing the product with communication about recycling (logos). We also advise our customers, for whom we may design, on logo usage.

Most of our products have a recycling code. The recycling code is an identification code in order to be able to sort the materials during the waste processing in the right way for the purpose of reuse. The code consists of the general recycling symbol with the three chasing arrows (M?bius strip), which contains a number indicating what material it is. Usually, there is also an abbreviation underneath for the material group. This system is based on a European directive (97/129/EC identification system for packaging materials). Dillewijn Zwapak mentions these symbols on almost all of its packaging. For proper recycling, we actually prefer the use of mono-materials.

Identification code
for packaging materials
2Product is made of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)Yes
4Product is made of Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)Yes
5Product is made of Polypropylene (PP)Yes
20Product is made of corrugated cardboardYes
21Product is made of other cardboardYes
22Product is made of paperYes

Bio-based or biodegradable

The terms 'bio-based' and 'biodegradable' mean different things. Bio-based refers to the raw material from which a product is made, while biodegradable refers to the end of life stage of the product.

Bio-based means that the product is made from renewable natural resources, such as maize, potatoes or
paper. Bio-based products are not always biodegradable.


Biodegradable means that a product or packaging can be disintegrated naturally by fungi and bacteria, and is converted into water, CO2 and methane. It says nothing about the speed at which this happens or under what conditions. Biodegradable products therefore may not be simply disposed of in the organic waste bin. There are products which, under industrial conditions (at sufficiently high temperatures and sufficient residence time), disintegrate at least 95 percent within 12 weeks (European standard EN-13432). You can recognise this packaging by the Seedling logo or the OK Compost logo. Generally the turnaround time in the composting plant is so short that it is not clear whether compostable packaging disintegrates properly in that time. At home on the compost heap these compostable products do not decompose so well either (the temperature is too low). There are products that decompose on the compost heap (at lower temperatures). These products can get the 'OK Compost Home' logo.

Biodegradable plastic

We see more and more plastic packaging on the market that is industrially compostable (with the Seedling logo and the OK compost logo). This suggests that the products may be put in the organic waste bin. However, plastic packaging must not be disposed of with organic waste, it belongs in the residual waste bin. An exception has been made for organic waste bags. The idea behind this is that the use of these bags will increase the amount of organic waste material collected.
Also, the compostable plastic may not be disposed of with the 'normal' plastic waste, because it has a different composition from normal plastic. Hence, compostable plastic belongs with the residual waste. As long as there are no good 'home compostable' products on the market and no proper collection of bio-
based plastics and biodegradable plastics is available, we believe more in the use of recycled plastics.

Plastic soup

Sometimes packaging enters nature uncontrollably. For example, by blowing away. This happens to a small percentage of our waste. Ideally, it is cleared up or ends up in the wastewater purification, but there is also a chance that it eventually ends up in the sea. Together with suppliers, we are actively looking for materials that are not harmful to the environment and disintegrate into harmless particles.

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