Circular Expert Interview: the Path to Circular Packaging with Uwe Melichar

Circular Economy is about ensuring we make the best use of limited natural resources. At Circular Scout we want to help companies and individuals find their way towards circularity.

I have interviewed our Packaging Expert Partner Uwe Melichar from Melichar Bros. and will share his thoughts on circular packaging with you.

Circular Scout: Uwe, can you tell us about your experience in the packaging industry and why circular packaging matters to you?

Uwe Melichar: I'm working in branding and packaging ever since. For more than 20 years I was developing various packaging projects for Gardena, adidas, C&A, Huawei, OMRON, Aesculap and various other big and small companies. I’ve been a partner for packaging at the branding agency FACTOR but at the beginning of this year I left the company and started my new business MELICHAR Bros. I am focussing 100% on sustainable and circular packaging and now I’m already developing sustainable and extraordinary packaging solutions for clients. Taking responsibility for projects, I cooperate with cradle-to-cradle experts, environmental scientists, engineers, marketeers, 3D artists and designated partners from the packaging industry. My extensive network (Bros. = brothers & sisters) is located in Germany but also in Helsinki, Paris, Riga, Istanbul, Budapest, Moscow and Taipei. Sustainability is my major focus. We have to have a holistic circular view on packages from cradle to grave or better from "cradle to cradle"! My motto: »Increase Value, Decrease Waste«

Circular Scout: thanks for letting us know about you, Uwe. I would also add that your packages received multiple awards such as Red Dot, Pentawards, German Design Award and that you are president of the European Brand & Packaging Design Association (epda) since 2018 where you have been advocating for more circular design.

Circular Scout: Uwe, why are many package designs not yet circular & sustainable?

Uwe Melichar: in a packaging process there are various stakeholders involved. Marketing people, designers, logistic experts, sales people and the buyers. All of them have their own agenda and want to save costs, create a bold shelf impression or focus on convenience features. This could mean that they try to find the lowest common denominator and end up in a compromise. Circular packaging needs realistic and clearly defined goals. It doesn't tolerate excuses.

Circular Scout: Uwe, can you suggest what brands can do now to develop more circular packaging?

Uwe Melichar: be brave and be open minded. There is a saying: ‚If you have a hammer in your hand you see nails everywhere‘. So, if a company or brand only talks to a cardboard converter they’ll only get cardboard packages. This platform CircularScout24 and the connected independent sustainability experts will propose and create reliable solutions that suits with the companies´ manufacturing processes.

Here are 3 questions that brands should consider to make their packaging more circular:

1. Can the package become smaller, lighter, more simple? and is the secondary packaging necessary at all?

2. Are there alternative materials that are more sustainable?

3. Can the package become part of an ecosystem? (refill, reuse, recycle…)

Circular Scout: Uwe, are some companies already doing the right thing to switch to more circular packaging?

Uwe Melichar: all major companies are already working on sustainable concepts. Some projects are in early stages (e.g. Coca Cola with its bottle made from Ocean plastics) but some companies have already launched sustainable packages. Colgate-Palmolive is pledging to use 100% recyclable packaging on all its products by 2025 and recently came up with a recyclable tube for a new vegan Colgate toothpaste. And they’re clever and know very well how to communicate their assets. In PR and ads the tube is shown together with their bamboo toothbrush.

More about the Colgate tube and other sustainable packages:

Circular Scout: what about consumers? Can they do anything to push brands to become more circular?

Uwe Melichar: I will share 3 pieces of advice that everyone can apply as consumer:

1. Check carefully what companies are telling you! Not everything of what you see is what you get. There is a lot of green washing out there.

2. Think about reuse, refill, recycle. Become familiar with your local recycling system.

3. Most of all, think about your own behaviour and routines. Do we need to eat and drink ‚on the go‘? Do we really want to support all the snack packs with micro portions wrapped individually? It’s the consumers´ choice of buying 20 individually packed pieces of chocolate (8g each) in a bag within a box or going for a bigger pack that can easily be opened and re-closed.

Circular Scout: Uwe, one last thought to share?

Uwe Melichar: If you always do what you always did you’ll always get what you always got… – Be disruptive and think different

Circular Scout: Thanks Uwe for this high level introduction to the topic of circular packaging. I would recommend that any company or organisation that needs more customised insights, exchanges and support should become a member of the circular scout packaging group to start a conversation and contact Uwe directly.

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