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What is Nestlé doing to tackle packaging waste?

What is Nestlé doing to tackle plastic packaging waste?

Tackling plastic pollution is an urgent priority for us. We take this responsibility extremely seriously.

We are accelerating our actions to tackle the plastic waste problem and to make a significant difference everywhere we operate. That is why we are working with governments, NGOs, suppliers, waste managers, retailers as well as other companies to take meaningful actions.

Our vision is that none of our packaging, including plastics, ends up in landfill or as litter. This vision isn’t just some lofty ideal - we are working hard to deliver on it and help to achieve a waste-free future.

We announced last year our commitment to make 100% of our packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. In January 2019, we set out our broader vision for a waste-free future, and announced a series of concrete actions.

We know this is not enough. We’re determined to look at every option available to solve this complex challenge, and embrace multiple solutions that can have an impact now.

We are focusing our efforts on three areas to drive change: (1) Pioneering alternative materials (2) Shaping a waste-free future and (3) Driving new behaviors.

What do your three focus areas to tackle packaging waste involve?

You can find more information on our dedicated page Working towards a waste-free future, but in brief:

 

1. Pioneering alternative materials

In December 2018, we announced the creation of the Nestlé Institute of Packaging Sciences to develop sustainable packaging materials and collaborate with industry partners to scale-up research and innovation.

Through the Institute, we are currently exploring a range of innovations, including new paper-based materials as well as biodegradable/compostable polymers that are also recyclable.

From 2020-2025, Nestlé will phase-out all plastics that are non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle for all our products worldwide, by rolling-out alternative packaging materials and forming partnerships with packaging specialists including Danimer Scientific and PureCycle Technologies.

We are determined to reduce our use of single-use plastics. To do so, we are introducing reusable packaging, new delivery systems and innovative business models.

  • We are working with the Loop organization to develop reusable packaging. We are currently testing reusable ice cream containers for our Häagen-Dazs brand in the USA.
  • Dispensers for Nescafé and Milo are already available in many countries around the world.
  • In early 2020, we will launch innovative water dispensers using state-of-the-art technology, allowing consumers to fill their own reusable bottles

Such innovative models are promising. They are part of a broader set of actions, which include promoting recycling and developing novel biodegradable and compostable packaging solutions.

In February 2019, we began eliminating all plastic straws from our products, using alternative materials like paper as well as innovative designs to reduce littering.

Through the NextGen Consortium and Cup Challenge, we joined forces with other industry partners to develop a fully recyclable, compostable fiber cup.

In March 2019, we launched a Nesquik All Natural in Europe, using new, innovative paper packaging material that is plastic-free and fully recyclable within the existing paper stream.

Nestlé Waters will increase the recycled PET content in its bottles to 35% by 2025 globally and 50% in the USA, with a specific focus on its Poland Spring Brand. The business will raise recycled PET content for European brands Acqua PannaBuxtonHenniezLevissima to 50% by 2025.

 

2. Shaping a waste-free future

Beyond delivering on our 2025 commitment, our longer-term ambition is to stop plastic leakage into the environment across our operations. Here the main challenge lies in collecting and sorting waste, particularly in countries without formal waste management systems.

We have joined forces with Veolia, the world’s leading resource management company, to work on collecting, sorting and recycling plastic material – with a particular emphasis on flexible plastic packaging. Projects will focus on 11 priority countries across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.

Working with our peers, we’ve also launched the Africa Plastics Recycling Alliance, which aims to improve plastic collection and recycling, and create jobs and commercial activity through this process.

In Indonesia, Nestlé has become the first food company to partner with Project STOP, a leading initiative to prevent the leakage of plastic into the ocean by developing partnerships with cities and governments in Southeast Asia.

We have also partnered with other businesses and governments to sign the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, an initiative led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and UN Environment, to promote and encourage progress in tackling plastic waste.

 

3. Driving new behavior

We want to lead by example at Nestlé, so we are taking immediate action to avoid plastic waste in our facilities as well as through working with local communities.

All 4,200 Nestlé sites are eliminating single-use plastics that cannot be recycled, and replacing them with materials that can be easily recycled or reused.

We will communicate our commitment to recycling on all our sites, and provide recycling facilities for materials such as PET and aluminum.

Nestlé employees in all locations and levels will also dedicate their volunteering days to removing litter, and take part in clean-up activities on World Ocean Day on June 8 2019. Our Executive Board and employees at our global HQ will take part in a Lake Geneva cleanup in summer 2019.

What do you mean by ‘100% recyclability is not enough’?

That achieving 100% recyclable or reusable packaging is not enough. We’re committed to reaching this target by 2025, but we know that this is not enough.

We will stop using plastic packaging where it makes sense and explore alternatives, such as paper-based and biodegradable or compostable materials.

This is especially important in places where no recycling infrastructure is available, or won’t be for some time. Nestlé is also taking part in projects aimed at reducing the accumulation of plastic waste in the environment, such as Project STOP in Indonesia.

Efforts to shape a waste-free future start within Nestlé, so we are also encouraging our employees to dedicate their volunteering days to litter collection.

What does ‘phasing out’ non-recyclable or hard to recycle plastics mean?

We have made a list of hard-to-recycle plastics that we will stop using to assist recycling efforts, with a timetable to phase-out their use.

We have also made a start on eliminating plastics across a range of materials in our ice cream, confectionery and beverages businesses, and on reducing the amount of shrink-wrap we use. These efforts could lead to us already eliminating over 40,000 tonnes of plastic in 2019.

What are the main alternatives to plastics that you will use?

Our approach includes investigating fully degradable or ‘biodegradable’ materials, which can reduce the impact of packaging waste where collection and recycling is difficult or facilities are unavailable.

We need to ensure that these materials are recyclable to avoid unintended consequences, and we’ll carry on promoting recycling and behavioral change to ensure packaging is disposed of properly.

For some of our products that include organic residues, such as coffee capsules, we believe that composting offers the best route to increase recycling. We’re designing the next generation of capsules to permit this.

For applications such as paper, new barrier coatings will allow consumers to dispose of them in the paper-recycling stream.

We are also collaborating with Danone, PepsiCo and Origin Materials on the NaturALL Bottle Alliance to develop a bio-based PET bottle.

What about alternative delivery models for Nestlé products?

We are currently testing several exciting approaches, one of which is Project LOOP in USA where refillable containers are used for Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

But these models alone will not solve the problem. They are part of a broader set of actions that includes improving packaging recyclability and recycling rates, and exploring biodegradable and compostable packaging.

Nestlé serves 196 countries worldwide. We need to find the right solution for every situation.

What are you doing to increase your use of recycled plastics?

Our current use of recycled plastic globally is 5%, and we are working hard to increase this.

We already use recycled plastic in our shrink-wraps, and Nestlé Waters plans to increase its recycled PET (rPET) usage in bottles to 35% globally by 2025, and 50% in the USA. In addition, Nestlé Waters will increase the recycled PET content for its European brands Acqua PannaBuxtonHenniez and Levissima to 50% by 2025.

By 2025 in Europe, bottles, PET layers in laminates, caps on glass jars and tins, trays for meat products and shrink films for display trays will use at least 25-50% recycled material, depending on package type.

How do you respond to the latest Greenpeace report on packaging waste?

The Greenpeace / Break Free from Plastic report, ‘A Crisis of Convenience’, highlights the challenge we face as a society in tackling packaging and plastic waste.

As the report shows, Nestlé has a sizable packaging footprint to manage. This page demonstrates how we are working hard to eliminate non-recyclable plastics and explore alternatives.

Working with our value chain partners and industry associations, we are exploring solutions to reduce plastic usage, facilitate recycling and develop new approaches to eliminating plastic waste.

We all want to see a waste-free future. It is vital that brands, packaging producers, waste management companies, governments and civil society work together to bring it about.

Why do you use plastics at all and not more ‘eco-friendly’ alternatives?

Plastic packaging plays an important role in ensuring that our foods and beverages are safe, and in reducing food loss and waste. Before making changes, we need to consider any alternatives with care.

We aim to use packaging with the lowest possible environmental impact. In every country where Nestlé operates, we must comply with food regulations and standards, which often dictate the types of material we can use to package our products.

New technologies and innovations bring a wider choice of packaging materials and more environmentally friendly formats. We recognise this, and we’re committed to working with our partners and industry associations to explore new packaging solutions – to reduce plastic usage, facilitate recycling and develop new approaches to eliminating plastic waste.

What about the issue of single-serve packaging?

As the number of single households continues to rise, so demand for smaller portion sizes increases, which is why single-serve products are increasingly popular. We recognise that single-serve packaging, which is often also ‘single use’, represents a very large proportion of waste plastic in the environment.

We are working with others to find effective scalable solutions to this critical issue, including alternative packaging types, improving collection after use and developing effective recycling infrastructures.

Why do you use PET bottles & how do you encourage their recycling?

PET provides lightness, resistance and transparency, and is a 100% recyclable material. However, half of all bottles are not recycled – a significant amount end up in landfill or as marine debris.

As a global bottled water company, we have a responsibility to help unlock the full economic, social and environmental benefits of PET bottles as a reusable resource.

We are developing collaborative projects that could improve plastics collection, and will share our findings to assess whether they can be scaled-up or replicated. For example, in the USA we have invested USD $6 million in the Closed Loop Fund (which pools money from business, government and community partners), to develop recycling infrastructure programmes in US cities.

Consumers also have vital role to play. We’ve helped raise awareness through brand platforms and corporate education programmes, such as R-Generation in Italy, Argentina, United Kingdom and Thailand. In North America, we’ve introduced clear and consistent How2Recycle instructions to the labels of half-litre bottles for all our major US brands. We will continue to use the strength of our brands to encourage consumers to recycle.

How are you making PET bottles more sustainable?

We apply ‘recyclable by design’ principles and carry out lifecycle assessments to minimise the environmental footprint of all our beverage bottles. Over the past 10 years we’ve reduced the amount of PET we need for each litre of bottled water by 22%.

Nestlé Waters will increase the recycled PET content in its bottles to 35% by 2025 globally and 50% in the USA, with a specific focus on its Poland Spring Brand. The business will raise recycled PET content for European brands BuxtonHenniezLevissima to 50% by 2025.

In 2016 we co-founded the NaturALL Bottle Alliance, with Danone and Origin Materials, to scale-up the next generation of bio-sourced PET, using biomass feedstocks – such as cardboard and wood pulp – that do not divert resources or land from food production.

We are working to develop a PET bottle made from 100% sustainable and renewable resources, and will make the technology available to the entire food and beverage industry.

How is Nestlé reducing your overall packaging use?

In recent years, we have made considerable progress in minimising the amount of packaging used for our products, while ensuring their quality and safety. Through our eco-design process, we are on track to reach our objective of avoiding 140,000 tonnes of packaging materials by 2020, versus 2015.

By the end of 2017, we had eliminated more than 100,000 tonnes of packaging materials from our production processes. That’s equivalent to 10 Eiffel Towers.

Before April 2018, Nestlé had committed to improving the environmental performance of our packaging. This included reducing the overall volume of packaging materials we use. Our new commitments build on this foundation, to create a more targeted approach to tackling the issue of plastic packaging.

We continue to optimise packaging in line with our Policy on Environmental Sustainability (pdf, 320Kb), not only by reducing the amount we use, but also by using innovative materials or packaging solutions, to improve packaging performance and transportation impacts.

How do you help develop plastics collection, sorting and recycling schemes?

We take an active role in the development of well-functioning collection, sorting and recycling schemes in the countries where we operate. To tackle the global issues of plastic packaging waste, industry players, local and national governments, civil society and consumers all have a vital role to play.

The work we do depends upon how waste is managed in a particular location, but could include the development of deposit return schemes (DRS) or extended producer responsibility (EPR) approaches. We will use our experience and technical expertise to add value and take a leadership role to drive industry change where we can.

How can you help consumers recycle product packaging correctly?

Consumers have a vital role to play in improving recycling rates, and we’re committed to raising their awareness of the right way to dispose of and recycle our product packaging, including via labelling. We’ll do this through our brands and through our corporate communication channels.

What about micro-plastics in bottled water?

Please visit our dedicated Ask Nestlé page on micro-plastics.