Circular Packaging Design Guideline

Recommendations for recyclable packaging design

Why do we need recyclable packaging?

It is mainly due to legal requirements that the current focus of ecological sustainability in the packaging industry is on closing the material and product loops. The Circular Economy Package of the EU that entered into force in July 2018 includes provisions for enhancing circular approaches to raw materials at the European level. It aims at increasing the recycling rates of all packaging materials. With regard to the waste hierarchy, the long-term goal is to reduce the use of resources, encourage their preparation for reuse and enable the recycling of materials.

Design for recycling of packaging is a subarea of circular design and describes whether a packaging is suitable for handling in a sorting process and for material recovery by means of recycling.

Design from recycling refers to the second sub-aspect of the circular approach. Here, the focus is on the use of recycling material as a full substitute for virgin material of the same type. For this purpose, markets need to be opened up that permit the fully functional use of the secondary raw materials that have been recovered.

The Circular Packaging Design Guideline

The team of the Competence Centre for Sustainable and Future Oriented Packaging Solutions has drawn up a guideline that covers the entire value chain of the packaging industry. In addition, input provided by a council of experts and enterprises along the entire supply chain has been taken into account. 

The Circular Packaging Design Guideline provides basic information on sustainable packaging design, as well as recommendations for the recyclable design of packaging systems for all actors along the value chain. 

Research activities at the Section of Packaging and Resource Management

The research conducted by the experts at the Section of Packaging and Resource Management at the Department of Applied Life Sciences of FH Campus Wien focuses on the development of sustainable packaging, circular design, as well as the development of methods for assessing the sustainability and safety of packaging. Packaging should be recyclable and as resource-efficient and environmentally friendly as possible, while appropriately protecting the product. To achieve sustainable overall development, the interactions between all relevant factors need be taken into account. 

For this purpose, the Section of Packaging and Resource Management carries out standardised analyses on the basis of comprehensive assessments.

Development of the Guideline

The Guideline will be updated continuously and amended in response to changes in collection, sorting and recycling technologies, as well as future material developments. These amendments will be discussed and further developed in the Circular Packaging Stakeholder Forum.

In the course of the last update (version 05) (PDF 2,2 MB), the guideline was further developed together with experts from the entire value chain concerning legal situation, details for the design recommendations and a country comparison between Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.

  • October 2021: revision and new contents version 04
  • September 2020: revision and new contents version 03
  • July 2019: revision and new contents version 02
  • January 2019: first version 01

An add-on to the guideline was created for product-specific guidance addressed to brand owners and retailers as part of the cooperation with ECR Austria and is available online.

Efficient Consumer Response (ECR) Austria

In September 2019 ECR Austria founded the ECR Circular Packaging Initiative as the only platform for a partnership between trade and industry with the professional expertise of the Packaging and Resource Management Department of the FH Campus Wien.

ECR Austria is thus dedicated to one of the most relevant topics of this time, namely the challenges arising from the demand for circularity and sustainability of packaging in general and plastic packaging in particular. The department of packaging and resource management is working in cooperation with ECR Austria to prepare the contents of the Circular Packaging Design Guideline for a broader target group in a practice-oriented way, focusing on the packaging system.

ECR-Guideline Packaging Design for Recycling

The ECR guideline Packaging Design for Recycling (download below) communicates the contents of the Circular Packaging Design Guideline in a user-oriented form not only for packaging experts but also for the branded goods industry and trade.

ECR Guideline Sustainability Assessment of Packaging

The publication Sustainability Evaluation of Packaging (download see below) is a recommendation of the working group "Sustainability Evaluation of Packaging" for the design of a more sustainable product and goes far beyond circularity. It not only looks at the criterion "circularity" of a packaging, but also examines the criteria "direct and indirect environmental impact" and "protection of the product contents".

The direct comparison of a product in two different packages is considered in all three groups of criteria and thus helps companies to market packaging that is ultimately more sustainable.

ECR Guideline Packaging Master Data

The recommendations Packaging Master Data (see link below) show which new, relevant attributes are to be included in the master data set, and which standardized processes must be set up between packaging manufacturers and producers at an early stage in order to enable the first steps towards a functioning circular economy.

Packaging Design for Recycling – A Global Recommendation for Circular Packaging Design

In cooperation with the World Packaging Organisation (WPO), the ECR Community and Packforce Austria, the section of Packaging and Resource Management at FH Campus Wien – University of Applied Sciences developed the Packaging Design for Recycling Guide.

The guideline offers a global recommendation for circular packaging design, which breaks down packaging by type (bottle, cup etc.) and is suitable for products from the food, near-food and non-food sectors.

Circular Packaging Design Guideline
pdf, 3 MB
Global Recommendation for Circular Packaging Design
pdf, 7 MB

The company Circular Analytics offers additional advice and support as well as Packforce Austria - the Austrian Packaging Forum.

For the further development of the Circular Packaging Design Guideline, we are also in contact with:

  • ARA AG
  • Plastics Recyclers Europe (RecyClass)
  • KIDV Recycle Check
  • EasyD4R – Evaluation Tool


FH Campus Wien
Section of Packaging and Ressourcemanagement
Favoritenstrasse 222, 2. Stock, F.2.27
1100 Wien
+43 1 606 68 77-3492
+43 1 606 68 77-3569

Degree programs


Packaging Technology and Sustainability



Packaging Technology



Sustainable Management of Resources