More Cycles for Food Packaging
4/12/2023 Brands Retail Start-ups Sustainability Innovative Processes Article

More Cycles for Food Packaging

The deposit cycle is already familiar from mineral water, juice, and dairy products. Munich-based company Circujar has established its own returnable cycle specifically for spreads. Organic food retailer Alnatura has introduced these new deposit jars in all its markets.

Since March 2023, organic products have been available in all Alnatura stores in returnable jars from the Since March 2023, organic products have been available in all Alnatura stores in returnable jars from the "Circujar" returnable system. Isabell Kuhl from Alnatura and Iris Vilsmaier from Circujar explain why.

Nearly 350,000 tons of waste are generated annually by disposable cups, disposable tableware, and other packaging for to-go food and beverages. Not only environmental associations but also retailers are in favor of new reusable systems. This is also because consumers in Germany ultimately want to buy more sustainably, as numerous studies have shown.

In February 2022, the German Reusable Association was founded with the aim of promoting innovation and research in the reusable sector, developing return and cleaning infrastructures and new standards. The climate protection campaign of the German Retail Association (HDE) has specifically published a guide for food retailers on how to avoid single-use packaging.

Organic retailer Alnatura is one of the pioneers in reusable packaging and has introduced even more products in deposit packaging. Since the beginning of March, all 150 Alnatura stores have been selling organic products in returnable jars from the “Circujar” reusable system. Alnatura is the first major food retailer to carry products in these returnable jars in its assortment, the company explains. Available in them are various types of nut purees from Fairfood Freiburg, as well as fruit purees and a nut nougat cream from the Pfandwerk brand, which is available exclusively at Alnatura.

Also suitable for small businesses

The young Munich-based company Circujar has established its own reusable cycle specifically for spreads, preserves and the like. Circujar has developed universally usable reusable jars for these products. Customers return the emptied jars to the deposit machine in stores. They are then taken to a rinsing plant for cleaning and then back to the next filler. Circujar thus ensures a closed reusable cycle.

According to packaging expert Isabell Kuhl of Alnatura, the system is suitable for both larger and smaller production facilities that are unable to invest in their own rinsing system for returnable jars. Alnatura stores have long carried a wide range of reusable beverages and dairy products. In the summer of 2020, this was expanded to include products from other product groups that were previously sold in disposable packaging.

Iris Vilsmaier, one of the founders of the start-up Circujar recalls, “With our new glass, naturally, we  didn't meet with universal approval. But through early exchange with potential partners, we were able to incorporate their needs well and show that a managed system makes reusable packaging easier for everyone.” “Our vision is to make it possible for foods for which there is no suitable reusable cycle to date to have one,” Vilsmaier says. Circujar, by the way, is a made-up word composed of circular (as in circular economy) and jar.

Reusable jars can be refilled up to 50 times and, therefore, have a better eco-balance than disposable jars. This is proven by a research project on packaging balances by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (ifeu). In the case of very light disposable packaging, however, a switch to heavy reusable glass packaging is not advisable, especially if the product itself is very light. Isabell Kuhl emphasizes, “At Alnatura, we focus on actual rather than perceived sustainability.” Circujar also follows this approach. For this reason, both companies will only offer those products in returnable glass that have a demonstrably better eco-balance.