Major Companies Embrace Green Packaging

Autumn leaves have fallen next to a green recycling bag

As an industry leader in engineering packaging solutions for clients in the industrial, retail, and moving and storage industries for more than 35 years, Pioneer Packaging Worldwide has always been committed to delivering state-of-the-art ways to provide efficient ways to tackle packaging problems in the most efficient, cost-conscious manner that is also environmentally sustainable. As a premier packaging provider, we applaud the efforts of firms that share our belief that two important goals are not mutually exclusive: keeping an eye on the bottom line and not forgetting the environmental impact we have on the world around us.

That’s why we acknowledge and commend the fact that more and more leading companies around the world are embracing efforts to work toward a goal that once seemed unlikely: using 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025. At last year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the list of leading brands, retailers, and packaging companies pledging to this ambitious objective jumped to eleven. Those firms – Amcor, Ecover, evian, L’Oréal, Mars, M&S, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Walmart, and Werner & Mertz – represent a combined total of 6 million tons of packaging each year. Later in 2018, two other corporate behemoths – Nestlé and Colgate-Palmolive – joined the ranks of companies making the pledge.

Last October, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation announced the formation of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which has the vision of a circular economy for plastic in which it never becomes waste. According to the Commitment’s website, “Signatories commit to three actions to realize this vision. Eliminate all problematic and unnecessary plastic items. Innovate to ensure that the plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable. Circulate all the plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.” Recently the Ellen MacArthur Foundation announced that 31 companies have come forward to disclose specifics of their use of plastics in packaging. That list of companies includes those listed above, along with other big names such as Danone, SC Johnson, and Burberry.

The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment says it “unites businesses, governments, and other organizations behind a common vision and targets to address plastic waste and pollution at its source. Signatories include companies representing 20% of all plastic packaging produced globally, as well as governments, NGOs, universities, industry associations, investors, and other organizations.”
“At the heart of the Global Commitment is a vision of a circular economy for plastic in which it never becomes waste. Signatories commit to three actions to realize this vision. Eliminate all problematic and unnecessary plastic items. Innovate to ensure that the plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable. Circulate all the plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.”

6 Key Points

The vision of the Global Commitment says it has six key points:
  • Elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation, and new delivery models is a priority
  • Reuse models are applied where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging
  • All plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable
  • All plastic packaging is reused, recycled, or composted in practice
  • The use of plastic is fully decoupled from the consumption of finite resources
  • All plastic packaging is free of hazardous chemicals, and the health, safety, and rights of all people involved are respected.

New Plastics Vision for Green Packaging

Here’s a deeper look at the initiative, again from their website.

The New Plastics Economy is a vision of a circular economy for plastic, where plastic never becomes waste. It offers a root cause solution to plastic pollution with profound economic, environmental, and societal benefits. For plastic packaging, specifically, we recognize a circular economy is defined by six characteristics.

Elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation, and new delivery models is a priority.

Plastic brings many benefits. At the same time, there are some problematic items on the market that need to be eliminated to achieve a circular economy, and sometimes, plastic packaging can be avoided altogether while maintaining utility.

Reuse models are applied where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging.

While improving recycling is crucial, we cannot recycle our way out of the plastic issues we currently face. Wherever relevant, reuse business models should be explored as a preferred ‘inner loop’, reducing the need for single-use plastic packaging.

All plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable.

This requires a combination of redesign and innovation in business models, materials, packaging design, and reprocessing technologies. Compostable plastic packaging is not a blanket solution, but rather one for specific, targeted applications.

All plastic packaging is reused, recycled, or composted in practice.

No plastic should end up in the environment. Landfill, incineration, and waste-to-energy are not part of the circular economy target state. Businesses producing and/or selling packaging have a responsibility beyond the design and use of their packaging, which includes contributing towards it being collected and reused, recycled, or composted in practice. Governments are essential in setting up effective collection infrastructure, facilitating the establishment of related self-sustaining funding mechanisms, and providing an enabling regulatory and policy landscape.

The use of plastic is fully decoupled from the consumption of finite resources.

This decoupling should happen first and foremost through reducing the use of virgin plastic (by way of dematerialization, reuse, and recycling.) Using recycled content is essential (where legally and technically possible) both to decouple from finite feedstocks and to stimulate demand for collection and recycling. Over time, remaining virgin inputs (if any) should switch to renewable feedstocks where proven to be environmentally beneficial and to come from responsibly managed sources. Over time, the production and recycling of plastic should be powered entirely by renewable energy.
All plastic packaging is free of hazardous chemicals, and the health, safety, and rights of all people involved are respected. The use of hazardous chemicals in packaging and its manufacturing and recycling processes should be eliminated (if not done yet.) It is essential to respect the health, safety, and rights of all people involved in all parts of the plastics system, and particularly to improve worker conditions in informal (waste picker) sectors. This vision is the target state we seek over time, acknowledging that realizing it will require significant effort and investment; recognizing the importance of taking a full life-cycle and systems perspective, aiming for better economic and environmental outcome overall, and above all recognizing the time to act is now.

New Plastics Economy Global Commitment with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment was developed with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

In the Executive Summary contained in the report they released, the foundation stated: “Plastics have become the ubiquitous workhorse material of the modern economy – combining unrivalled functional properties with low cost. Their use has increased twenty-fold in the past half-century and is expected to double again in the next 20 years. Today nearly everyone, everywhere, every day comes into contact with plastics – especially plastic packaging, the focus of this report. While delivering many benefits, the current plastics economy has drawbacks that are becoming more apparent by the day. After a short first-use cycle, 95% of plastic packaging material value, or USD 80–120 billion annually, is lost to the economy. A staggering 32% of plastic packaging escapes collection systems, generating significant economic costs by reducing the productivity of vital natural systems such as the ocean and clogging urban infrastructure.

The cost of such after-use externalities for plastic packaging, plus the cost associated with greenhouse gas emissions from its production, is conservatively estimated at USD 40 billion annually – exceeding the plastic packaging industry’s profit pool. In the future, these costs will have to be covered. In overcoming these drawbacks, an opportunity beckons: enhancing system effectiveness to achieve better economic and environmental outcomes while continuing to harness the many benefits of plastic packaging. The ‘New Plastics Economy’ offers a new vision, aligned with the principles of the circular economy, to capture these opportunities.

With an explicitly systemic and collaborative approach, the New Plastics Economy aims to overcome the limitations of today’s incremental improvements and fragmented initiatives, to create a shared sense of direction, to spark a wave of innovation and to move the plastics value chain into a positive spiral of value capture, stronger economics, and better environmental outcomes. This report outlines a fundamental rethink for plastic packaging and plastics in general; it offers a new approach with the potential to transform global plastic packaging materials flows and thereby usher in the New Plastics Economy.”

The effort to cut back or eliminate the amount of plastic packaging waste can’t come soon enough. Plastics have inundated our oceans and water supplies, and plastic drink containers trap, confine and kill marine organisms and fish. A report for the 2016 World Economic Forum stated that by 2050 – just 30 years from now – the amount of plastic waste in the ocean will outweigh all fish.

The report had some eye-popping statistics from companies about the staggering amount of waste produced by the 31 companies listed. They collectively produce eight million tons of plastic packaging each year. For example, the Coca-Cola Company disclosed it’s responsible for 3.3 million tons of plastic packaging per year, the rough equivalent of 200,000 bottles every minute. While that’s an astounding figure, Coca-Cola is certainly not alone; Nestlé produced 1,700,000 tons and Danone 750,000 tons of plastic waste annually.

Major Companies Green Packaging Contributions

Here are statements from some of the companies that contributed to the report.

The Coca-Cola Company has announced a bold, ambitious goal to help collect and recycle 100% of the packaging it sells by 2030. This is supported by two key goals – to continue toward making all its consumer packaging 100% recyclable by 2025 and to have 50% recycled content in its packaging by 2030. Coca-Cola’s plan, called “World Without Waste”, will work with a number of partners to achieve this global goal for packaging that includes design, collection and partnering – and encompasses the whole life of the package.

Colgate-Palmolive Company committed to 100% recyclability of packaging across all its product categories by 2025 and to achieve 25% recycled content in all plastic packaging by that same date. It aims to accelerate its progress in part through scalable improvement in the capacity and quality of recycled material available for its packaging in the years ahead. Additionally, Colgate-Palmolive will continue to innovate in order to reduce and eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastic packaging and to move from 98% to 100% PVC–free packaging by 2020.

Danone announced that its iconic brand evian, whose bottles are already 100% recyclable, will make all of its plastic bottles from 100% recycled plastic by 2025, a move that will see the natural mineral water brand adopt a circular approach to its plastic usage. Evian plans to achieve this through pioneering partnerships to redesign its packaging, accelerate recycling initiatives and clean up plastic waste from nature. Danone is committed to co-building the circular economy of packaging and will launch its ambitious broader plans in the coming months.

L’Oréal commits that all of its plastic packaging will be rechargeable, refillable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. This is in line with and a continuation of L’Oréal’s efforts over the past years working towards the continuous improvement of the environmental and social impact of 100% of its new products by 2020, as part of its “Sharing Beauty With All” sustainability program.

Mars will continue to work towards 100% recyclability of our packaging by 2025. Packaging innovation is one way it plans to reduce the company’s carbon footprint in line with the science-based targets of it’s Sustainable in a Generation Plan.

Marks & Spencer (M&S) announced that all its plastic packaging in the UK will not only be 100% recyclable, but also ‘widely recycled’ in the UK by 2022. It will work to eliminate packaging that strays into the environment (particularly oceans) and actively design out packaging parts that can’t be reused or recycled. It will introduce products with reclaimed social plastics as a component, providing positive social benefit to the communities from which the materials are sourced. In addition, M&S will assess the feasibility for all its plastic packaging to be made from one polymer group by 2025 to reduce consumer confusion and to improve recycling.

Nestlé’s ambition is that 100% of its packaging is reusable or recyclable by 2025. To achieve this, it is focusing on eliminating non-recyclable plastics; encouraging the use of plastics that allow better recycling rates of major plastics used today; and working to eliminate or change complicated combinations of packaging materials. It will also increase its use of recycled plastics, including the use of 25% rPET in its bottles across Europe by 2025. Nestlé supports the development of effective and cost-efficient packaging waste management systems including the scaling up of effective recycling processes. This includes working on developing formal targets, deposit return schemes, extended producer responsibility approaches or support for professionalizing informal collection systems.

PepsiCo announced its ambition to design 100% of its packaging to be recyclable, compostable or biodegradable, increase recycled materials in its plastic packaging, reduce packaging’s carbon impact, and in partnership with the PepsiCo Foundation, work to increase recycling rates by 2025.

Unilever announced its commitment to help transform global plastic packaging material flows by: ensuring all of its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025; increasing its use of recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25% by 2025 (against a 2015 baseline); publishing the full “palette” of plastics materials used in its packaging by 2020 to help create a plastics protocol for the industry; and helping tackle the industry-wide sachet waste issue, by investing in proving, and then sharing with industry, a technical solution to recycle multi-layered sachets – CreaSolv.

Walmart announced that 100% of its Private Brand packaging will be recyclable by 2025 and aims to reduce environmental and social impacts of private brand and national brand packaging. Beyond its own organization, Walmart encourages suppliers to participate in Project Gigaton, by setting goals to improve packaging optimization, recyclability, and the use of recycled and sustainably sourced materials to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And the Walmart Foundation supports the Closed Loop Fund to help improve access to recycling and strengthen the recycling infrastructure.

The Werner & Mertz Group, whose packaging is already 100% recyclable, announced its commitment to use 100% recycled plastic in at least 70 million bottles each year as of 2017, corresponding to 65% of its entire annual bottle volume, aiming to go up to 100% for all its consumer goods packaging by 2025. In line with the Group’s integrally sustainable philosophy, the packaging caps and lids will be made of used plastic (recycled material) while labels, printing inks and adhesives will be designed in such a way that the quality of the recyclates will be improved in the subsequent recycling process.

Pioneer Packaging is Here to Help

Pioneer Packaging Worldwide applauds the efforts of firms that share our goal of using greener packaging.

We believe that brand enhancement, consumer awareness and minimizing the total packaging system costs are just a few benefits of going “green”. By using sustainable packaging products, our clients show not only corporate social responsibility but respect for the environment and the future. We always strive to minimize material going into the waste stream and use recycled products wherever we can. We minimize material through design and not over-packaging. To learn more about Pioneer’s commitment to Green Initiatives, contact us today.

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