Reuse of packaging as a supplement to recycling

Coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and funded by Business Finland, the 4everPack project is conducting groundbreaking research on the reuse of packaging.

The planning for the 4everPack research project on reusable packaging started more than three years ago. Now, the project has been running for a year and a half and is reaching its final phase. So far, there have been very few public studies on reusable packaging, which makes this project unique even on a global scale.

“Reuse is an important option for reducing the environmental impact of packaging,” says Project Manager Jussi Lahtinen from VTT.
“We felt it was necessary to launch this research as we couldn’t find any ongoing studies on the topic anywhere else.”

“As such, the reuse of packaging isn’t anything new, but it has been generally ignored in recent decades as packaging solutions have taken on a more straightforward, single-use approach. In the last few years, companies have more prominently invested in the recyclability of packaging and recycling technologies, but reuse is making a comeback as a potential option for reducing the environmental impact of packaging. Finland is a pioneer in the development of green packaging materials and hopefully this trend will continue in the development of eco-friendly business models, technologies and materials for reusable packaging. We hope that leading research will be conducted in Finland in the future as well to ensure competitive strength in this growing market.”

Lahtinen wants to avoid pitting the two options, reuse and recycling, against each other. Minimising the environmental impact must be set as a common goal for the development of recyclable materials, recycling technologies and systems as well as for reuse and any related activities.

“It’s not realistic to imagine that all the packaging in global value chains in the next few years or even decades would be exclusively based on reuse. However, it is highly possible that reuse will replace single-use solutions in local value chains. In any case, there will undoubtedly be demand for recyclable solutions as well, and it is also of course important to ensure that reusable packaging can be recycled at the end of its service life.”

The project is divided into various subcategories. One subcategory, for example, is dedicated to the analysis of the best materials for reuse. In reusable solutions, the cost of the material does not play a decisive role, which is why reuse can enable the use of innovative materials. Therefore, Lahtinen hopes that the forest industry will start to develop bio-based materials that produce added value and are viable for reuse.

“We should draw more value out of timber so that increasing felling would not be the only way to enable growth. Forests provide excellent bio-based materials suited for reuse, and wooden packaging, dishes and utensils are already commercially available. New solutions are bound to be discovered through innovation.”


Launched by VTT and the University of Vaasa and funded by Business Finland, the 4everPack research project examines the reuse of consumer packaging from the perspective of reducing the environmental impact of packaging. The project involves a wide range of businesses and organisations inspired to brainstorm, study and pilot solutions for reusable packaging. The project is partnered by Berner, Borealis, Brightplus, Helsinki, HUS, Kamupak, Kesko Kiilto, Kotipizza, Metsä Board, Nordic ID, SOK, Tomra and UpCode.