Partnering to reduce food packaging waste

AD Circular: Partnering to reduce food packaging waste


Packaging waste is a growing problem and subject to upcoming legislation within Europe. Key ways to tackle the problem include reducing waste, boosting recycling, and reducing the need for natural resources by increasing the supply and use of recycled materials. At Avery Dennison, we’re contributing to the solution by reducing waste in our own operations and by supporting our supply chain partners to reduce their waste as well.

One of the ways we’re doing this is with AD Circular, our pioneering program which enables the recycling of used PET and glassine label liners in countries across Europe. We collect used liners and work with trusted partners to recycle and transform them into high-value items, working together to create a circular economy where nothing goes to waste.

One of our program partners is Western Brand. They are one of Ireland’s largest producers of locally farmed primary and free-range chicken products and are our first fully active partner in Ireland. They work with our customer and a leading advocate for the program, The Watershed Group, Ireland’s largest privately owned producer of innovative, best-in-class labeling and packaging solutions for the food, beverage, consumer, pharma, and retail sectors and many of Europe’s leading brands.

We spoke with Colm Drugan, Western Brand’s Environmental Manager, and Liz Waters, CEO of Watershed Group, about the impact AD Circular has had on each company’s sustainability initiatives and goals.

Question to Western Brand: Describe your role within the company.

My role as Environmental Manager is ultimately to reduce and avoid any impacts that our company may have on the natural environment. This includes minimizing our carbon emissions, reducing our waste to landfill, maximizing recycling, and driving energy and resource efficiency across the business.   

Question to Watershed: Describe your role within the company.

As Group CEO, a key part of my role is to live in the future. It’s my responsibility to lead the way to ensure that our customers are future-proofed in a range of areas: supply chain, innovation, CapEx investment into the latest sustainable printing technology, and increasingly, and most importantly, sustainability goals. By promoting the sustainability agenda, Watershed Group can help brands create shared value with their customer bases and enable them to find the latest innovative processes to do that.

Question to Western Brand: Describe the challenge you were facing that led you to join AD Circular.

Finding an outlet for the various waste streams from our packing operation has been a challenge. Although many of the materials we use, such as paper/cardboard and some plastics, are readily recyclable, some of our waste materials are not yet recyclable and therefore end up being landfilled. Until now, our glassine label liners were not recyclable.

Partnering to reduce food packaging waste

A labeled package of Western Brand chicken

Question to Watershed: How does AD Circular address your customers’ challenges?

There is currently a spotlight on the packaging industry as a huge producer of waste. Our customer base produces tons of waste that can easily be captured, benefiting both the environment and delivering cost saving benefits to industry. However, thus far there has been very little coordinated thinking about how to sustainably divert linear waste from landfill. 

At Watershed Group, we believe that the circular economy is the most effective way to reduce waste in our industry. AD Circular offers a solution to packaging waste that supports the circular economy and is efficient, cost effective, and most importantly, transparent. 

Question to Western Brand: How does AD Circular fit into your business and sustainability strategies?

Western Brand has signed up for the Bord Bia “Origin Green” Sustainability Program, which aims to enable Ireland’s food, drink, and horticulture producers to embed sustainability into their businesses. As part of this, we developed a five-year plan to significantly reduce our landfill kgs per tonne of product. We were delighted to be introduced to AD Circular by Watershed, as it should enable us to divert a significant portion of our waste from landfill.

Question to Watershed: How does AD Circular fit into your and your customers’ business and sustainability strategies?

Our feedback from customers is that they are struggling to come up with a sustainability framework and make the move from vision to action. AD Circular does the work for them. It addresses a major issue - waste - and also offers cost saving benefits and transparency. Many companies have not yet tackled their emissions issues but when forced to do so by legislation, they will find that AD Circular offers them a very easy first step on their sustainability journey.

Currently, Watershed Group is developing a best-in-class, full ESG sustainability framework. We have moved from vision to action in the following ways:

  • Determining our organizational carbon footprint, which will be auditable and verified independently through the Carbon Disclosure Project

  • Implementing ISO50001, which will enable us to systematically manage our energy and carbon usage on an ongoing basis

  • ESG reporting, which will help us better understand and improve our sustainability profile and develop an annual corporate impacts report. Our first report is set to be published in July 2023 and will be made available to all of our customers.

Additionally, due to their impact on the company and relevance for stakeholders, we are focusing on waste, recycled and natural materials, solar energy across all sites, the latest energy efficient print technology, and our company/employee culture and policies around sustainability.

By providing a user-friendly way to reduce waste and support the circular economy, AD Circular is a key pillar of Watershed’s sustainability strategy. We are committed to introducing as many of our Irish and European customers as possible to this program.

Partnering to reduce food packaging waste

Labels being applied to Western Brand packaging

Question to Western Brand:  What measurable results have you seen from using the service?

We expect that AD Circular will enable us to divert a further 55000 kg (55 tonnes) of glassine label liners per year from landfill. This will allow us to surpass our Origin Green 2023 target of 25% reduction (4.24 kg landfilled/tonne of product) and actually achieve a 42% reduction (3.33 kg/tonne of product). We will also achieve our Origin Green target of 33% recycled material (from production/packing)

Question to Western Brand: Have you experienced any additional benefits you would like to share?

In the very near future we plan to expand glassine recycling to our sister plant in Northern Ireland. We can use the existing supply chain between both plants to “piggy back” for transport and consolidate the storage and collection of the material for Avery Dennison.

Question to Western Brand: What is your company’s long-term vision for sustainability?

Western Brand’s vision is to be leaders in our industry in terms of sustainability and we aim to be almost entirely self-sufficient when it comes to our energy requirements by 2030. To realize these goals, we are currently installing a large solar farm on the roofs of our premises and are in the planning process for generating onsite wind power. Heat and power from anaerobic digestion also fits in well with our waste streams from poultry rearing and forms part of our medium- and long-term strategy.

Question to Watershed: Why is this kind of program, and collaborating on sustainability, important for our industry?

There is a serious lack of practical leadership and transparency when it comes to waste disposal. I think that Avery Dennison can play a hugely educational role and lead the way in the sector, in collaboration with Watershed Group and other companies in the printing industry. We believe in the benefits of this program, so for us it is a high priority to roll it out to as many customers as possible as quickly as possible.

Partnering to reduce food packaging waste

AD Circular collection boxes in a Western warehouse, before they are secured with pellet straps

Learn more

If you wish to learn more about the AD Circular program, click here

Are you a brand owner or converter interested in recycling used paper and filmic label liners? Contact us to learn more about how AD Circular can help and start your free trial period.