Circular economy packaging: stylish and sustainable

COLOURFORM demonstrates that circular economy packaging design does not need to compromise on style and substance.

Prestige paper-maker James Cropper is no stranger to change; with a history dating back to 1845, today the company is renowned for its expertise in colour and ability to create and deliver sustainable, custom-made paper products with a completely circular design. They do this in collaboration with some of the world’s leading luxury brands, art galleries and designers.

With a relentless ambition to embed sustainability wherever possible, from investing in renewable energy to sourcing raw materials, what really stands out is James Cropper’s ability to invent world-first technologies and paper products with game-changing circular economy packaging potential.


COLOURFORM is James Cropper’s latest innovation, the launch of which further demonstrates the company’s design credentials while offering brands an alternative to plastic packaging. COLOURFORM gives brands a way to challenge the global packaging waste problem and set a new, higher standard for circular economy packaging solutions.

The natural fibres used to make COLOURFORM all come from renewable, well-managed forests; and thanks to its own world-class reclaimed fibre plant, COLOURFORM can also be made using high quality recycled content, giving new life to waste from a variety of sources including used coffee cups. The latter is extracted via James Cropper’s CupCycling™ process – the world’s first process dedicated to upcycling used coffee cups.

Every single COLOURFORM project is bespoke in terms of colour, shape, surface finish and functionality, with the packaging used for a wide range of product categories from cosmetics to consumer electronics. It is entirely custom-made and can be made to look and feel just like smooth plastic or more “natural” so that users can tell that it is a paper product.

Team work makes the dream work

COLOURFORM places James Cropper firmly in the driving seat when it comes to sustainability, but the company is the first to admit it cannot do it alone. Speaking from the Waste to Wealth summit in November 2018, James Cropper’s CEO Phil Wild stressed the need for everyone to pull together; for brands to explore the options available to them and make the vital move to a circular economy. Some of the biggest movers and shakers in sustainability were also in attendance including The Prince of Wales, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove; and celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

COLOURFORM Marketing Manager Hannah March echoes his thoughts and calls for more brands and businesses to challenge their own use of packaging, saying: “It’s vital we move from a linear economy, where waste isn’t utilised to its full potential, to a circular economy, whereby it becomes a truly profitable asset.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to think about their footprint and make the simple but transformative change to plastic-free packaging where they can. As a society we’ve made some progress, and as a company we’ve pledged to continue to work as a key innovator in the packaging and recycling industries.

“We’ll continue to work collaboratively with businesses to reduce avoidable waste and develop sustainable solutions but ultimately, as citizens of the planet, we need more businesses to reconsider how resources are used in their products, services and operations if we’re going to truly embrace a circular economy.

“Of course, we’d love to help and can take on the most challenging and bespoke briefs, but in any case, the time to join forces and make real change to secure a better future for our planet is now.”

Brands getting it right

While the spotlight continues to shine on the issue of single-use plastics, COLOURFORM has never been more relevant. In January this year, global cosmetics brand Lush opened its first UK-based ‘naked’, or plastic packaging-free store, inspired by the perpetual public concern over plastic pollution. The store aimed to show that making small changes can have a really positive impact on the environment.

Lush has always applied this sustainable way of thinking to product innovation; however, after identifying that sometimes practical demands or the need to enhance the retail experience for customers make packaging essential, the company approached James Cropper for a solution.

Using its team of experienced craftsmen, colour scientists and engineers, James Cropper created a circular economy packaging solution for Lush which uses 100% recycled materials from coffee cups and is itself fully recyclable. It was created using a bespoke colour and is embossed with Lush branding. The finish is premium but also functional, with a smooth finish inside which works to hold oil-based products. Critically, it demonstrates that circular design does not necessarily call for compromise on style and substance.

Hannah March comments: “The brief from Lush presented a fantastic creative opportunity. Lush is a like-minded business – the team has a thirst for doing things the right way. They asked us to create a standalone COLOURFORM box which would hold a selection of solid bath oil balls and which the consumer could use time and time again.

“It’s an excellent concept for gifts, and helps consumers enjoy more of their favourite Lush products without leaving a plastic footprint.”

Consumers leading the way

James Cropper believes that a truly sustainable approach is not just about using renewable materials and committing to responsible, lower impact manufacture, but is also about ensuring packaging is easy for consumers to recycle.

In January 2019 James Cropper took delivery of the first bales of used coffee cups from a pioneering pilot scheme in collaboration with Forge Recycling, environmental charity Hubbub and Leeds City Council. The pilot scheme aims to transform how people dispose of used coffee cups, and in just eight weeks 159,000 cups were collected and delivered to James Cropper to be given a second life and transformed into beautiful papers and COLOURFORM packaging.

Hannah comments: “The project demonstrates that by working collaboratively with consumers to embed the right infrastructure, great inroads can be made to tackle coffee cup waste in the UK.

“There needs to be a change in mindset in how we handle waste and source materials. Ensuring packaging is easy for consumers to recycle is key to this for innovations such as COLOURFORM to flourish and reach their true potential.

“Partnerships and commitment from brands and businesses across Europe are also critical if we’re to transform waste into a truly profitable asset that minimises the footprint packaging has on the environment.”

James Cropper also supports the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment which is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. In collaboration with UN Environment, it’s a global commitment to actively eradicate plastic waste and pollution at the source. So far, it has been signed by 250 organisations comprising some of the world’s largest packaging producers, brands, retailers and recyclers, as well as governments and NGOs.

What next for circular economy packaging?

It is increasingly clear that there is consumer appetite for brands with scrupulously clean environmental standards; and companies are increasingly putting their money where their mouths are. So, what next?

Hannah says: “Ultimately we need to get to a place whereby packaging leaves absolutely no trace. COLOURFORM is a small part of the solution, but so are businesses coming on board to collaborate and redesign how they package their products. Equally, continued and improved commitment from the government, along with sustained support and appetite for change from the consumer can only help drive the shift needed to transform the infrastructure for waste in Europe and make a circular economy common place.

“Companies, brands and organisations need to know that there is a cost-effective solution, and that changing how we approach packaging and packaging design doesn’t come at the cost of quality, design or functionality. Style and substance can work together beautifully – aesthetically and for the environment.”

To read more about James Cropper’s COLOURFORM innovation or CupCycling process visit and

Hannah March

Marketing Manager

COLOURFORM – James Cropper

+44 (0) 1539 818435

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