Clarity in the jungle of terms in the circular economy


14 February 2024


What is the difference between reuse and recycling? How should the German term Mehrweg be used and how does it differ from Einweg? For which evaluation are reuse rates more meaningful than recycling rates? Here you find the answers.

Answers to these questions, raised not least by the PPWR (Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulation of the EU), and brief explanations of the terms used in the recycling of packaging are provided in the new "Mehrweg-Glossar/Glossary on Reuse", published in German and English.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT and the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML produced this on behalf of the Reusable Packaging Initiative Foundation in order to bring clarity to the often blurred terminology surrounding reuse and the circular economy.

The bilingual glossary of around 40 pages aims to clarify descriptions and comparisons in the field of reusable and recyclable packaging systems.

The work is intended to serve as a tool to facilitate communication between science, politics, companies and consumers. Terms such as recycling, reutilisation, disposable, reusable or recycling rates are omnipresent, but are not always clearly defined. For example, reuse and recycling are sometimes seen as competing processes, sometimes recycling acts as a generic term, sometimes reuse.

"In this glossary, we consider reuse to be non-destructive recycling, i.e. the object and its form are preserved, while recycling describes a destructive treatment process that is primarily concerned with material preservation." - Jürgen Bertling from Fraunhofer UMSICHT and co-author of the glossary

The glossary is divided into four chapters: Firstly, the team of authors explains relevant aspects for the comparison of packaging systems; the next chapter contains overview diagrams of packaging types depending on their recyclability and a schematic representation of linked cycles. The definitions of all relevant terms, such as reuse and re-use, as well as a differentiation and categorisation of the terms disposable and reusable used in German can be found in the third chapter. The glossary concludes with a chapter on formulas and formula symbols for calculations, which are intended to contribute to a generally understandable notation in scientific and technical analyses.

Source: Packaging-Journal