Start-up: Circleback launches deposit system for cosmetics and hygiene packaging

Image source:

Start-up: Circleback launches deposit system for cosmetics and hygiene packaging

Thomas Reiner | 21.10.2022

The start-up Circleback is placing its first self-developed deposit machine for plastic packaging of cosmetics and personal care products in a Berlin supermarket. With the help of the app-based deposit system, Circleback aims to achieve a recycling rate of 90 percent. The idea and approach are absolutely right. Because we need system solutions to close loops. And the closer we operate to the retail sector, the greater the chances of success. What the new solution also shows is that PCR as a raw material and resource remains a top issue for the industry. At the heart of the matter is the effort to secure recyclate. That’s where the value lies.



Circleback was founded in Berlin in 2021 with the aim of developing and operating collection, recycling and lifecycle management systems for packaging and materials. The start-up is going into practice with the first use of its self-developed deposit machine for returning plastic packaging for empty shampoo bottles, cream and toothpaste tubes.

The site is an EDEKA supermarket on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. The vending machines are also intended to reach consumers who tend to shop more conventionally.


The deposit system

Circleback is based on the structures of the state deposit system for beverage bottles. There, a recycling rate of 90 percent is achieved. Circleback aims to achieve the same. The path to the goal:

  • Circleback cooperates with brand manufacturers who pay a fee to the start-up as partners.
  • The start-up collects the partner packaging via its vending machines and processes it into recyclate.
  • Each partner receives the recyclate that comes from its packaging.
  • The first partners include Kneipp, Catrice, Dr. Bronner’s and i+m.


The deposit app

  • Consumers identify themselves at the deposit machine using the Circleback app and can then return the partners’ emptied packaging.
  • Up to 20 cents is credited for each returned package.
  • The deposit amounts are paid out via the app. In the future, Circleback will also offer other types of compensation from participating brands.


The outlook

Circleback’s market entry is in cosmetics and personal care. But the startup sees potential for expansion into other European countries, in addition to other types of packaging that can use the same infrastructure.


It does work

To close loops, we need system solutions. The closer these operate to retailers, the greater the chances of achieving good (and needed) recycling rates.

Circleback’s approach is also exciting because it “lures” brands with recyclate. PCR is increasingly becoming a valuable and sought-after resource. Those who can secure this raw material are in a position to offer recyclate. And this is where the real value lies.

That the new approach comes from a newcomer is no coincidence. Start-ups and “outsiders” are often more pragmatic than the insiders. There, concerns are too often at the forefront.

We love building on your ideas

I’m looking forward to hearing from you

More Articles