- Report targets use of hard-to-recycle flexible packaging
- Companies say government recycling infrastructure is needed
According to Bloomberg article published on November 2, 2022, the majority of the planet’s biggest plastics users look almost certain to miss a target of only using reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025.
Companies that make some of the world’s best-known drinks and snacks, including Nestle SA, Unilever Plc, PepsiCo Inc., Coca-Cola Co. and Mars Inc., have signed on to the 2025 plastics promise, together representing a fifth of all plastic packaging produced globally. But continued use of difficult-to-recycle items — like sauce sachets and transparent salad bags — is keeping those companies from making good on their pledge, according to a report produced by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the UN Environment Program.
While the plastics promise is voluntary for now, a global legally binding UN treaty is in the works. If approved, it could mean additional regulatory risk and scrutiny for businesses. Excess plastic use has been blamed for polluting the seas and harming marine life, negatively impacting human health and driving the demand for hydrocarbons, all of which is raising pressure on multinationals to curb its use.
The report shows that for the third year in a row, the share of reusable, recyclable, or compostable plastic packaging increased slightly across the group, to 65.4% in 2021 from 63.2% in 2019.
While more than half of brands and retailers cut their use of virgin plastics, which are newly created from hydrocarbons, together they used as much fresh plastic as they did in 2018. That’s because total plastic use is going up and recycled material only made up for some of the increase.
PepsiCo used 2.5 million metric tonnes of plastic packaging in 2021. The maker of 7Up and Cheetos has increased its use of virgin plastics since 2020 and slightly cut its proportion of packaging that is recyclable, reusable or compostable to 76%. Pepsi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At KitKat and Nescafe maker Nestle, which was responsible for almost a million metric tonnes of plastic packaging last year, less than half was recyclable, reusable or compostable — making the 2025 goal all but impossible.
Jodie Roussell, global public affairs lead in packaging and sustainability at Nestle, says part of the problem is a lack of government investment in recycling infrastructure. “Without the infrastructure, 100% recyclable, reusable packaging isn’t possible,” she said. “It’s two sides of the same coin: there’s what governments need to do and what companies must do.”
Companies are also struggling to find alternatives to flexible packaging — things like sachets and films — which currently makes up about 16% of the group’s packaging. This sort of packaging is popular because it’s lightweight, but that very quality also makes it technically and economically harder to recycle. Sorting machines struggle to hold down these materials, for example, and if they do, it’s still a lot of effort and cost compared to recycling a PET bottle.
Sander Defruyt, plastics initiative lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, says although companies have made progress, they need to invest to find new packaging methods. “Flexible packaging waste is extremely hard to deal with, not generating it in the first place will need to be an important part of the solution,” he said. “We won’t just recycle our way out.”
Tags: All Products,AlwaysFree,English,WorldPublished on November 25, 2022 12:41 PM (GMT+8)
Last Updated on November 25, 2022 12:41 PM (GMT+8)