Circular Manufacturing

Committed to a circular economy that diverts used packaging from landfills, preserves resources and reduces use of virgin materials.


  • We actively manage the life cycle of packaging through the manufacturing, reconditioning, reuse and recycling processes, as circular economy principles are an essential component of our Build to Last strategy.
  • Greif’s Life Cycle Services network collects used and empty steel, plastic and Intermediate Bulk Container rigid packaging products and reconditions or recycles them, actively reducing the demand for raw materials and the number of containers sent to landfills.
  • Our 2030 goals aim to make all Greif products recyclable, increase recycled raw materials across our products and recover a higher percentage of material from the market.

Why Circular Manufacturing Matters

GRI: 3-3 | 301-2 | 306-2
Management of material topics
Recycled input materials used
Management of significant waste-related impacts

Upholding and advancing circular economy principles is an important component of Greif’s Build to Last Strategy and our customer partnerships. We actively manage the life cycle of packaging through the manufacturing, reconditioning, reuse and recycling processes. Creating products that embody circularity and build on environmental and social capital requires collaboration with our suppliers, customers and other value chain partners. Waste diversion and material recovery strengthen our Circular Economy management and allow us to build stronger relationships with our suppliers. Collaborating and building partnerships across our value chain help us develop sustainable and innovative solutions to advance our collective goals, reduce environmental impacts, provide a more sustainable end-of-life for products and advance our corporate and sustainability objectives.


Our circular economy strategy across our operations and value chain extends beyond using recycled products as we consider a cradle-to-cradle approach. As part of this strategy, we are working to drive circular economy principles in five key areas:

  • Reducing raw material use
  • Waste reduction and reducing natural resource use
  • Innovation and increasing recyclability, and use of recycled materials, in our products
  • Fiber-based alternatives to single-use plastics
  • Life cycle services

We reduce virgin raw material use by increasing our use of recycled material and through the lightweighting and downgauging of our products. Lightweighting and downgauging products reduce reliance on raw materials and keep new raw materials from entering our value chain. For instance, Greif Latin America developed a large plastic drum with a facetted side-wall approach that removed up to 14 percent of the resin in the drum while maintaining performance. The faceted drum supports our circular economy and decarbonization strategies by reducing natural resource consumption and lowering fossil fuel-based raw material usage and CO2 emissions during transportation.

We continue to design and develop products that are recyclable and made from recycled materials as we work toward our goals to make 100 percent of Greif products recyclable1 and achieve an average of 60 percent recycled raw material content across our products2. By using recycled materials and manufacturing recyclable products, materials remain useful within our value chain. We work with our customers and suppliers to increase the availability and use of recycled and recyclable products. Our EcoBalance product line is made using up to 75 percent recycled high-density polyethylene obtained from post-consumer containers and our Paper Packaging & Services (PPS) products are 99 percent recyclable based on volume.


EcoBalance™ IBC Drives Down Carbon Emissions

Greif supported German paint producer Schulz in significantly reducing its carbon footprint through its sustainable GCUBE intermediate bulk container (IBC) with post-consumer resin (PCR) and closed-loop recycling service.

Greif’s GCUBE IBC with PCR consists of 60 percent virgin PE and 40 percent PCR. For product integrity, the inner layer of the IBC bottle remains 100 percent virgin high density, while the external layer is primarily made from PCR. Additionally, most external components, such as corner protectors, plastic feet and plastic pallets, are produced with recycled polyethylene. The PCR is generated from the collection of empty IBCs, which are then treated in Greif’s reconditioning and recycling facility in Mendig.

Schulz used standard IBCs for many years and was looking for new ways to reduce their environmental impact. “Switching to the GCUBE IBC with PCR has supported us in achieving our sustainability goals by decreasing raw material consumption and reducing CO2 emission into the atmosphere,” explained a spokesperson from Schulz.

The GCUBE IBC with PCR extends the EcoBalance™ product line, including drums and other shipping containers made using PCR. The EcoBalance™ product line helps support Greif’s customers with their sustainability goals, including reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption and diverting waste from landfills. The EcoBalance™ product line helps support Greif’s customers with their sustainability goals, including reducing carbon emissions, energy consumption and diverting waste from landfills.

Greif’s Life Cycle Services (LCS) network across North America and Europe collects used and empty steel, plastic and Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC) rigid packaging products and recovered fiber and reconditions or recycles them to be suitable for reuse and resale. This work actively reduces the demand for raw materials and decreases the number of containers sent to landfills. Across our Global Industrial Packaging (GIP) business, we reconditioned, remanufactured or recycled more than 2.7 million containers in 2022. Our PPS business managed over 3.3 million metric tons of recycled fiber in 2022. Please refer to the Innovation section of this report for more information.

We aim to assist our customers and their customers with safe, economical and environmentally supportive collections of eligible used packaging. As part of this network, customers can receive reports through the Greif Green Tool and Green Tool Lite, enabling them to quantify impact by tracking key indicators such as carbon footprint reduction, waste reduction and material savings. More information about our circular manufacturing efforts and their impacts on water, waste and emissions can be found in this report’s InnovationWaste and Water sections.

Paper Packaging & Services

Greif operates 19 recycling facilities in our PPS business. Our facilities offer complete outsourcing solutions for plastics, pulp and paper fiber procurement, transportation and administration and provide complete paper fiber audit and management solutions. 99.2 percent of the products our recycling business handles, by volume, is paper fiber. Our paper fiber recycling operations collect wastepaper for use in our containerboard mills and for sale to other containerboard and recycled paper product manufacturers. Approximately 50 percent of the fiber we collect in our operations is used to manufacture paper products in consumer and industrial settings. We collect the remaining 50 percent of fiber for sale to external mills and other manufacturing operations to produce new paperboard, molded fiber packaging and other products. More than 78 percent of the fiber we use in our paper manufacturing is from recycled inputs. Due to our integrated capabilities, Greif operates as a net positive recycler, cementing us as a vital representative of the paper recycling industry.

Recovered fiber is an input to many essential goods. Before COVID-19, recovered fiber value was historically low, with a recovery cost higher than the fiber value for many recyclers. At the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, the supply of recovered fiber lagged behind the demand, resulting in a scarcity of fiber and continued high costs. However, at the end of 2022, the fiber market went through a shift that had not been experienced in decades, causing the price of recycled fiber to be often less than that of new fiber. As a result of this unprecedented shift, we are now focusing on re-educating customers on the advantages of recycled fiber. Our engagement efforts and industry group participation will help educate the market on changing industry dynamics, ensuring goods that depend on recovered fiber inputs remain viable businesses with a robust supply chain.


EasyPour Concrete Forming Tubes

Greif’s high-quality 100% recycled paperboard concrete forming tubes offer superior performance for demanding concrete projects, including columns, footings, piers and other structures. EasyPour tubes are one example of our efforts to commercialize new product lines that replace virgin-based products with recycled material products and remove plastic by incorporating our aqueous-based barrier coatings. EasyPour tubes also provide our customers with products that have improved end-of-life solutions, thereby advancing our circular economy strategy. EasyPour’s built- in weather shield technology provides moisture resistance and increased strength and durability. EasyPour tubes are LEED® qualified, made of 100% recycled paperboard produced by Greif mills and are fully recyclable and repulpable. In the past, we used Polyethylene liners in manufacturing our construction tubes.

In 2021 and 2022, we created a recyclable material alternative using paper. The development of this alternative is a significant step in reducing plastic waste.


Global Industrial Packaging

Our GIP business looks for reuse and recycling opportunities wherever possible. On average more than 90 percent of our plastic products are recyclable, and 100 percent of our internal regrind plastic, which accounts for approximately 20 percent of our drums and IBCs by weight, is reincorporated into our products. We manufacture our steel products from approximately 15 to 30 percent recycled steel.

Please see our report’s Supply Chain Management, Waste, and Innovation sections for more information about how our circular economy strategy spans our entire business.

Goals, Progress & Performance

The broad quantity of steel, plastic and paper products covered by our LCS network is a tremendous asset for Greif. In 2022, a cross-functional team defined Greif’s global circularity goals and communicated them to the market. Greif is currently forming the teams necessary to achieve those goals in each business unit. In 2023, we plan to automate data collection for our 2030 targets, establish Circularity Teams to oversee our most important circularity workstreams and develop main action items and high-level roadmaps to help us achieve our 2030 goals.

2030 Goals:

  • Make 100 percent of Greif products recyclable1.
  • Achieve an average of 60 percent recycled raw material content across our products2.
  • Recover an average of 80 percent as much material from the market as we ship to the market3.
1. Working across a vast portfolio of raw materials and products, our recyclability targets will be benchmarked by weight, consolidated at a company level.
2. Recycled content targets for our products are minimum averages, benchmarked across a portfolio of materials and products by weight, consolidated at a company level.
3. Recovery targets for Greif products are minimum averages benchmarked across a portfolio of materials and products by weight, consolidated at a company level.
Highlight Stories

Using Recycled Plastic in IBC Molding

Greif’s Tri-Sure facility in Carol Stream collaborated with GIP North America purchasing, GIP Italy and four GIP NA plants to source 800,000 pounds of recycled plastic resins to use in the production of IBC rear/corner feet and corner protectors. This internal sourcing strategy reduced costs by $100,000. The team also reused empty corrugated bulk boxes to ship the recycled products they manufacture, reducing corrugated bulk box purchases by 84 percent. The project created company value and established environmental and financial benefits, while closing two internal loop systems and contributing to circular economy principles by diverting waste from landfills and finding a new purpose for them. Due to the outstanding sustainability impact of the project and its ability to be scaled to other molding and injection molding facilities, the project and Tri-Sure Carol Stream team was awarded the Michael J. Gasser Sustainability Award.

Highlight Stories

Fiber Recycling for the Flooring Industry

In 2020, our Dalton, Georgia Recycling Facility worked with the floor covering manufacturers in the Dalton area to process recovered fiber and create a “closed loop” for paperboard cores. Each year, the Dalton Recycling team recovers tens of thousands of tons of core waste from these manufacturers and recovers this waste fiber. This same fiber is used by Greif’s paper mills to manufacture 100 percent recycled new paperboard, which is then converted into new tubes and cores in Greif’s Industrial Products Group (IPG). This initiative helps not only sustain the recycling programs in Dalton but also maintain our level of excellent customer service with IPG customers. Annually, this program helps recycle 25,000 tons of cores, 10,000 tons of cardboard, 5,000 tons of boxboard and 2,000 tons of plastic film from the flooring industry in north Georgia.

Floor Industry
Highlight Stories

Reconditioning Conical Drums in Portugal

For the past 20 years Greif’s RIPS facility in Iberia, Portugal has been supplying customers with reconditioned conical drums, having reconditioned over 10 million drums and saving 50,000 tons of steel, 197,600 tonnes of CO2 emissions, 2,600,000 gigajoules of energy and 343,200 cubic meters of water in the process. The project was initially started as a way to help address our customers’ wish to reduce waste and lower their carbon footprint and overall improve customer satisfaction. The team collaborated with customers to understand their needs, including volume, specification requirements and safety, developed a reconditioning process and ultimately installed a reconditioning line to begin serving customers. Today, the facility serves a multitude of customers, reconditioning 500,000 conical drums and saving 5,200 tons of steel each year.

Conical Drums
Highlight Stories

Expanding Cradle to Cradle Services with Investments and Joint Ventures

In 2020, Greif made investments and established multiple joint ventures in order to expand the scale and capabilities of the reuse, recycling and reconditioning services we provide. In April of 2020, Greif acquired a minority stake in Centurion Container LLC, expanding our intermediate bulk container (IBC) reconditioning network in North America. In August of 2020, Greif established a joint venture with Delta Plastics, the leading independent supplier of reconditioned IBCs in the United Kingdom. Finally, in December of 2020, Greif acquired a minority stake in LAF s.r.l., expanding IBC reconditioning services for our Italy-based customers. We look forward to working with our partners to continue to reduce our environmental impact through cradle to cradle solutions.

Greif Delta Plastics
Highlight Stories

State of the Art Reconditioning Services in Lille

Greif’s LCS facility in Lille, France has taken significant steps to innovate the logistics associated with offering reconditioning services to our customers. Traditionally, empty IBCs were picked up from and delivered to a single location for a single customer. LCS Lille has begun picking up from locations along our customers supply chain, then delivering reconditioned IBCs back to our customers, simplifying logistics for our customers. Lille has also implemented Datamatrix, a traceability system that allows us to record all production steps from reception to delivery, have visibility into the origins of an IBC and provide a real time view of our inventory in support of overall enhanced customer service. Datamatrix also supports better management of residue in the IBCs they collect. Each IBC that enters the facility is automatically weighed to determine how much residue is in the container and inform how it is treated. With Datamatrix, this information can be sent directly back to customers to improve how they manage IBCs that are ready for pick-up. Lille uses a closed loop water system for water that is used to clean IBCs recycling 100 percent of the water they use, and collects, treats and shreds plastic that is used to manufacture new IBCs and plastic drums.

Services in Lille
Highlight Stories

Providing Our Customers a Circular Solution

The CorrChoice GreenGuard® product line provides our customers with a food safe recyclable and repulpable alternative to supplemental materials, such as plastic liners. Our GreenGuard® line of paper coatings are safe for direct contact with most food types and feature oil, grease, water, moisture and abrasion resistance as well as an innovative wax replacement technology. By applying the coating to corrugated containers, we eliminate the need for supplemental materials used in many food applications. We work with our customers to ensure our products meet their needs for safe and secure food handling while providing packaging products that are 100% recyclable and repulpable, advancing our circular economy strategy while enabling our customers to meet their sustainability objectives.

Circular Solution
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