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The Critical Nature of a Circular Economy

Championing Initiatives for Recycling, Circular Economy, and Leading Environmental-Sustainability  

Circular economy principles are inspired by nature’s regenerative cycles. To implement circularity successfully, products must be designed for long-lasting use, encouraging high-value and sustainable business practices. 

A circular economy creates a closed-loop system where materials and products are kept in circulation, minimizing environmental impact and contributing to a more sustainable future.  

As we continue our circularity learning journey, we will delve deeper into the comparison of linear economic models to circular economic models. This comparison will highlight the importance of Greif’s circular targets and shed light on transforming waste into valuable resources for a sustainable and thriving future.  

By aiming to make 100 percent of our products recyclable (1), achieving an average of 60 percent recycled raw material content across all products (2), and recovering an average of 80 percent as much material from the market as we ship to the market (3), Greif is actively contributing to a circular economy approach.  

  1. Working across a vast portfolio of raw materials and products, our recyclability targets will be benchmarked by weight, and 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, and 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.


SWAY: Building a Circular Economy

A circular economy aims to reuse and recycle materials continuously, eliminating waste and conserving natural resources. Circular economy principles are inspired by nature’s regenerative cycles, where organic products decompose and nourish the soil for new growth.

Read More.


Aligning with the principles of the circular economy

Our 2030 sustainability targets align with the principles of the circular economy, where resources are continuously reused, and materials are kept in circulation, thus reducing waste and minimizing environmental impact.

By adopting circularity practices, Greif aims to transform waste into valuable resources, promote eco-friendly solutions, and demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. In doing so, Greif sets an exemplary standard for responsible business practices, fostering a more circular and regenerative future for industries and communities alike.  

The table below shows a clear overview of the fundamental distinctions between the traditional “take, make, waste” approach versus prioritizing sustainable practices such as reducing waste and continuously reusing resources. 


Linear Economy   

Circular Economy   

Resource Usage  

Resources are extracted and used once  

Resources are continuously reused  

Waste Generation  

Generates significant waste and pollution  

Aims to eliminate or minimize waste and pollution  

Product Design   

Products designed for single-use or disposal  

Products designed for durability and recyclability    


Products discarded after use  

Products recycled or remanufactured after use         

Economic Model  

Linear “take, make, waste” model  

Circular “reduce, reuse, recycle” model              

Natural Resources  

Heavy reliance on new resource extraction  

Reduced need for new resource extraction  

Environmental Impact   

High environmental impact  

Lower environmental impact and sustainability        

Climate Impact   

Contributes to greenhouse gas emissions  

Aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions  

Cost Efficiency   

Potential inefficiencies and high costs  

Cost-efficient due to resource optimization          

Now, let’s look at current linear economy models and corresponding examples of circular economy models: 

Linear Economy Model  

Circular Economy Model  

Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles                

Reusable Water Bottles made from Recycled Plastic  

Disposable Paper Cups                           

Recyclable and Compostable Paper Cup  

Traditional Takeaway Containers            

Reusable and Returnable Food Containers     

Traditional Incandescent Light Bulbs            

Energy-Efficient LED Light Bulbs, Recycle Old Bulbs  

Disposable Plastic Cutlery                      

Reusable and Biodegradable Cutlery          

Landfilling of Food Waste                       

Composting Food Waste for Fertilizer        

Traditional Gasoline Cars                       

Electric Cars with Recycled Batteries      

Landfilling of Electronic Waste            

Electronic Waste Recycling and Refurbishment  

Greif’s ambitious circularity targets are strongly tied to the urgent need for sustainable waste management and resource conservation in our societies, where various linear economic models prevail. As worldwide institutions grapple with increasing waste generation and environmental challenges, Greif recognizes the significance of taking responsibility and leading positive change.  

Circularity Videos

Circularity in Action



Creating materials from scratch has a significant impact on the environment. Contact us about our recycling services, including collecting paper, paperboard, and plastics, to developing custom solutions.



Give your products new life, avoid landfills, and reach sustainability goals. Greif's network of Life Cycle Service providers provides collection, cleaning, reconditioning services, and circular solutions.

green tool calculator icon

Green Tool

Both easy and cost-effective, the Greif Green Tool provides insight into the environmental impact of packaging used for fillers and emptiers. It makes local reporting seamless and empowers smart sustainability choices.



What do you do with your used packaging? Give it new life by recycling or reconditioning it. Contact us to discuss pick-up options and conditions across the U.S. and Europe.

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