Discover the recipe for responsible packaging
by The Circle Team on 4 August 2020

It's official: Circle launches its first responsible packaging! An exciting challenge for which Patrycja joined the team especially to propose a solution as innovative as our products.

We spent a lot of time, thought and research but it is finally here and we are proud to tell you about it!

In this article, you will discover the secrets of our packaging as we imagined it: environmentally friendly while being as nice and useful as possible. From the outset, we set ourselves the following two objectives:

  1. Designing packaging that is as eco-responsible and local as possible
  2. Surprise you with a quality and sustainable customer experience

Good packaging is packaging that doesn't exist

At the very beginning of our adventure our dream was to have zero packaging. To give you our raw products, just as they are, without any artifice to limit our carbon impact at the time of delivery. Unfortunately, the logistical and traceability constraints imposed themselves on us and we had to explore other solutions.

The infinite question of the Polybag.....

The polybag is the transparent plastic bag that is put on all garments at the end of the production process in the factory. It is the packaging that protects the garment and makes it easy to identify in stock management. We have given a lot of thought to how to remove this step, as Picture Organic has done by replacing their small individual plastic bags with larger collective bags. Unfortunately, at our stage of development, this solution is still too complex to implement for our logistics management. However, we are working hard to implement it as soon as we are ready.

However, we have chosen eco-responsible polybags, made from recycled plastic, manufactured near our production site and which we can recycle after use. This will allow us to have a good logistic management of our products and to protect them during storage and transport without them being damaged before they reach you.

How to develop sustainable packaging?

Designing a responsible packaging solution is like creating a recipe; all the ingredients must be combined to produce a result that is good for the planet and beautiful.

The first step was to identify the values we wanted to put into the packaging. We had to define precisely what eco-responsible packaging represents and compare our desires with existing solutions on the market. Brands are full of inspiring ideas, and we fell under the spell of the seeded paper used by UMAï, the reusable Girlfriend Collective bags and the fold-out recycled cardboard boxes for All Birds shoes. A wide range of original solutions where each option has its advantages and disadvantages.

Following an article published by Lumi, we studied the characteristics that would define our packaging as eco-responsible, from its conception to its end of life.

The words "Sustainable", "Ecological", "Responsible" have very broad meanings that can sometimes be interpreted in incompatible ways. If we take the end of life of a product, it can be recycled, reused, composted, returned, recharged.... you surely understand better why the end of life must be thought out from its conception to select the materials according to the chosen solution.

We finally decided on 5 objectives in terms of eco-responsibility:

  1. Design: reduce materials to a strict minimum in order to optimise it and thus limit overproduction
  2. Production: local, European, partners involved in the subject and certified
  3. Distribution: minimise packaging and optimise its size to reduce material requirements
  4. Materials: plastic-free, printed with alternative inks, recycled and certified materials (here are some certifications of our suppliers: FSC, Blue Angel, EU Flower, ECF/TCF, STeP-by Oekotex)
  5. Use and end of life: reusable and then easily recycled in the household waste stream

All this while focusing on solutions that are accessible to all our customers and that reflect our brand values. The most important trade-off was the material used for our packaging.

The choice of biodegradable or compostable materials?

This solution, which is becoming more and more widespread, especially for mailers (envelopes containing clothes), did not satisfy us for two reasons:

  1. The decomposition of biodegradable materials requires specific conditions and the possession of a compost at home, which concerns only a small part of the French population, although it is an essential element for an ecological end of life.
  2. The vast majority of the materials we identified were not of European origin. However, the packaging must respect our specifications in terms of carbon impact, which means being produced near our distribution zone, i.e. Europe.

What solution for our Circle packaging?

We finally decided on a mailer made of recycled and recyclable kraft paper, manufactured in Europe and printed with water-based inks. To protect your clothes inside the envelope, we opted for an Acid-Free tissue paper, made in Europe with virgin wood cellulose fibres and using production techniques free of harmful acids.

We had to find a solution to meet the challenges of logistics and returns and the outer label was the obvious choice. We chose a recycled and recyclable kraft paper label, also made in Europe. Our only disappointment was that the thread was made in China. We accepted this compromise because our supplier already had it in stock and had to sell it before replacing it with European-sourced yarn. This was a way of helping to clear their stock rather than launching a specific production for this label. We are continuing our search for a local solution to this!

You become a player in the recycling of our packaging

You are the one who holds the cards to make the recycling of this packaging a success! If you are still a beginner, we have 3 tips to share with you.

  • The envelope: thanks to its perforation and double adhesive strip, you can reuse this envelope up to two times before keeping it to store your documents or other objects.
  • Tissue paper: we wanted to awaken your inner gamer with a word puzzle printed directly on the paper. Find the 12 Circle values hidden in the grid, send us a direct message on Instagram(@circle_sportswear), challenge 3 of your friends to find them faster than you and try to win a VIP experience with our team in September! You can always keep this lovely paper to wrap a gift by constructing the message you want to write or by circling the initials of the person you're giving it to!
  • The label: do you also keep your labels as bookmarks? That's what we do every time! So take advantage of this new label made of recycled paper to accompany you in your daily reading and travelling. Another idea: why not put a few drops of essential oils or your favourite perfume to infuse the cardboard and keep it in your gym bag or wardrobe to always smell good after your workout?

We know you're even more creative than we are, so don't hesitate to share with us all the ways you can reuse the components of our packaging. We're counting on your imagination! Tag us with the hashtag #ProtectOurPlayground!

This is only the first version of our packaging and as with our collections, we will continue to improve it progressively! Don't hesitate to share your feedback with us and we look forward to handing over this innovative packaging to you during our Summer Bike Tour.