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What is Nestlé doing to tackle plastic packaging waste?

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Our vision is that none of our packaging, including plastics, ends up in landfill or as litter, including in seas, oceans and waterways. We are working hard to deliver on it and help achieve a waste-free future.

To achieve this, our commitment is that 100% of our packaging is recyclable or reusable by 2025. We’ve made a number of global commitments to get there, including the elimination of non-recyclable plastics.

However, to tackle the plastic waste crisis we know that our commitments to make 100% of our packaging recyclable or reusable alone are not enough.

We are determined to reduce our use of single-use plastics, by introducing reusable packaging, new delivery systems and innovative business models everywhere we operate and sell our products. This includes rolling out the home delivery service Loop in countries where it is available.

In 2019, we opened our Institute of Packaging Sciences to enable us to accelerate our efforts to bring functional, safe and environmentally friendly packaging solutions to market, and address the global challenge of plastic packaging waste.

We are also working with value-chain partners, industry associations and civil society to explore different packaging concepts to shape a waste-free future. Such system-wide change takes time, but we are committed to creating a world without waste. Our company will also continue to play an active role in developing well-functioning collection, sorting and recycling schemes across the countries where we operate.

Improving consumer information is also vital, and we’re committed to helping improve it by labeling our product packaging with recycling information – to help ensure it is disposed of in the right way.

Plastic packaging plays an important role in safely delivering food and drinks to people, and in reducing food loss and waste. We need to consider alternatives carefully before making changes. We believe that recyclable, paper-based materials and compostable packaging have value in applications where recycling is not an option.

By looking at every option to solve the complex challenge of plastic packaging waste, we will embrace multiple solutions that can have an impact now and in future.

Why do you use plastic in your packaging?

Our packaging plays a key role in protecting food, preventing food waste and ensuring the quality and safety of our products. We use a range of materials, including glass, metal, paper and plastics.

Plastics packaging plays an important role in safely delivering food and drinks to people, and in reducing food loss and waste. We need to consider alternatives carefully before making changes. We believe that with the right approach, collection and recycling of it is possible without harming the environment.

How much plastic packaging did Nestlé use in 2018?

1.7 million tons, including laminates with different material combinations. This represents a third of the total packaging we use across our business. We estimate that 87% of all our packaging is recyclable, and 89% is recyclable and reusable. An estimated 65% of our total plastics and laminates packaging is recyclable and reusable.

How is Nestlé reducing its plastic usage?

We have made a commitment to improve the overall environmental performance of our packaging. Our 2025 commitments build on this, to include a more targeted approach on the specific issue of plastic packaging.

We’ve made considerable progress in recent years while ensuring product quality and safety. Through our eco-design process, we are on track to reach our objective of avoiding 140,000 tons of packaging materials by 2020, versus 2015.

By the end of 2018, we had eliminated almost 120,000 tons of packaging materials from our production processes. That’s equivalent to 10 Eiffel Towers.

We continue to optimize packaging in line with our Policy on Environmental Sustainability (pdf, 320Kb): by reducing the amount we use, by using innovative materials or packaging solutions, and improving packaging performance and transportation.

How are you phasing-out non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle plastics?

We have made a 'Negative List' (pdf, 50Kb) of of non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle plastics that we will stop using as soon as possible to assist recycling – with a timetable to phase them out across our packaging.

We have also started eliminating plastics across a range of materials in our ice cream, confectionery and beverage businesses, and are reducing the amount of shrink-wrap we use.

How are you developing alternative materials?

In September 2019, Nestlé inaugurated the Nestlé Institute of Packaging Sciences. The Institute evaluates and develops various sustainable packaging materials, and collaborates with industrial partners to develop new packaging materials and solutions. We see six major focus areas for our scientific work on plastics:

  • Packaging-free solutions
  • Removal of problematic plastics
  • Simplification of materials and packaging structures
  • Plastic-free packaging / paper
  • More recycled content
  • Bio-based plastics
  • Biodegradable / compostable materials

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

Our current use of recycled plastic globally is 2%, and we use 5% recycled content in our PET water bottles. We are committed to increasing the proportion of recycled content that we use in our packaging, and continue to explore all opportunities to create and obtain sufficient volumes of food grade quality recycled content.

We aim to have 15% recycled content globally by 2025, and 35% recycled content in PET water bottles by the same year. We will reach 50% recycled PET usage by 2025 in the United States, with a specific focus on our Poland Spring brand.

In addition, Nestlé Waters will increase the recycled v content for its European brands Acqua Panna, Buxton, Henniez 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 the packaging type.

What do you mean by the 'simplification' of packaging?

Simplifying packaging helps improve its recyclability. To simplify our packaging materials and structures, we have shared a set of 'Golden Rules' with suppliers, for the design and development of our packaging.

For all packaging:

  1. Optimize the environmental performance of the packed
  2. Optimize weight and volume of primary, secondary and transport packaging
  3. Use maximum possible recycled content
  4. Consider locally available infrastructure and technology

For plastics and coated paper:

  1. Do not use oxo-degradable plastics unless obliged to by law
  2. Consider bio-based content for packaging
  3. Do not use polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC), polystyrene (PS) or expanded polystyrene (EPS)
  4. Prefer transparent or lightly tinted material, avoid carbon-based masterbatches
  5. Ensure residual products can be easily removed

How are you exploring degradable packaging materials?

Our Institute of Packaging Sciences is accelerating solutions to help us meet our 2025 packaging commitments. As well exploring conventional material types that are known to be recyclable, we are exploring the potential of bio-sourced and biodegradable materials and systems – to see what role these can play in packaging food safely and sustainably.

For most packaging applications, recycling is likely to be the preferable end-of-life pathway, as it keeps materials circulating in the economy. However, in some cases biodegradability or compostability may be appropriate. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation mentions applications with the potential to return valuable nutrients to the soil, such as packaging mixed with organic contents. Examples include food after use, coffee capsules and teabags.

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

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

Successful recycling requires an adequate infrastructure, which is not always in place. We have identified 17 ‘first mover’ countries, where we are focusing efforts to increase recycling rates, and 12 more countries where we are focused on achieving ‘plastics neutrality’ – collecting as much plastic as we currently use in our product packaging.

Do you plan to extend Project STOP beyond Indonesia?

Founded in 2017, Project STOP is a frontline initiative to stop ocean plastic leakage by developing partnerships with cities and governments in Southeast Asia. The objective is to partner city and district governments to enable zero plastic leakage into the ocean, increase plastics recycling rates and bring social benefits – e.g. health, fisheries, tourism and jobs.

In Indonesia, Nestlé is the first food company to partner Project STOP, to create sustainable, circulate and low-cost waste systems that capture as much value from waste as possible. It supports the many existing local initiatives and informal waste pickers in coastal areas.

Based on our learnings in Indonesia, Nestlé plans to roll out this model to other countries where we operate.

Are you opposed to bottle deposit laws and similar schemes?

We support the most effective and cost-efficient packaging waste management systems, such as deposit return schemes (DRS), shared responsibility schemes (Extended Producer Responsibility) or pay-as-you-throw systems – based on what works best in the local context.

Nestlé Waters was the first beverage company to add How2Recycle information on the labels of our major U.S. brands. These labels include a reminder for consumers to empty the bottle and replace the cap on it before recycling.

We’ve also invested USD6 million in the Closed Loop Fund, a USD100 million social impact investment fund that finances recycling infrastructure projects and community recycling programs across the U.S. This has led to 100,000 tons of material being collected that would otherwise have gone to landfill. The 11 projects currently funded by Closed Loop Fund should allow the recycling of an additional four million tons by 2025.

What are you doing about plastic water bottles?

Nestlé Waters has committed to increasing the amount of recycled PET (r-PET) it uses in it brands globally to 35% by 2025.

We’re incorporating r-PET into our bottles where it is technically and economically feasible. For example, our Arrowhead brand in the U.S. now ensures that all its bottles made in California use 50% post-consumer recycled plastic. More recently, our Nestlé Pure Life brand introduced a 100% r-PET 700ml bottle in North America, while Valvert launched a 100% r-PET bottle in Belgium. Our Poland Spring brand has also committed to achieving 100% recycled plastic across its still water portfolio by 2021.

Over the past 10 years we’ve reduced the amount of PET needed per liter of bottled water we produce by 22%.

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

How do you respond to recent 'Break Free from Plastic' reports on packaging waste?

The latest #BreakFreeFromPlastic report highlights the challenge we face as a society, in tackling the issue of packaging and plastic waste. We know we have an important role to play in shaping sustainable solutions for this problem.

We package many of our well-known food and drink brands in plastic for freshness, affordability and safety. It is unacceptable for that packaging to end up as litter, and we are working hard to make all our packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.

We also want to find ways to change the way consumers receive and enjoy our products fundamentally. For example, we are rolling out the home subscription delivery service Loop, in countries where it is available.

Changes will take time, but we are working hard with our suppliers, NGOs and governments worldwide to find solutions.

What is your response to Greenpeace’s ‘Throwing Away the Future’ plastics report?

The report highlights the challenges of tackling plastic waste, and reminds us that scalable solutions can take time. Through our commitment to ensuring that all our packaging, including plastics, is recyclable or reusable by 2025, we are working hard to get rid of non-recyclable plastics and invest in innovative, alternative delivery systems – including reuse and refill options.

Our Nescafé, MILO and Coffee-Mate brands are available via dispensers in many countries for our out-of-home business. We are also rolling out Loop, the subscription home delivery service, in countries where the service is currently, or soon to be, available. We know, however, that in some places around the world, our consumers cannot afford to buy food and beverage products in bulk, in larger formats, or via subscription services.

With this in mind, it is important that we continue to offer a range of nutritious products so that consumers at all income levels can access quality food at affordable prices and in the right portion sizes. Our challenge is to do this in the most responsible way we can, for both people and planet.

Changes to way people can enjoy our products are coming, but this cannot happen overnight. Regulation to ensure food and beverage safety and quality creates complexity to the packaging changes we need to see – from the materials regulated for use to consumer access. These considerations affect the innovation process.

To hasten change we’re focused on collaboration – working with value chain partners and industry associations to explore different packaging solutions to reduce plastic usage, facilitate recycling and develop new approaches to eliminating plastic waste. Transparency is vital, and we invite everyone to review our continued progress against our commitments and hold us accountable for our actions. As a founding signatory of the New Plastics Global Economy, our progress is published annually.

Greenpeace's report shows the clear, pressing need for developing a proper infrastructure to manage waste effectively around the world, both in the formal and informal sectors. All actors in the waste value chain – including brands, packaging producers, industry associations, waste management companies, governments and civil society – must work together to deliver change.

Is it true that Nestlé has increased its plastic packaging usage by 13%?

No, our numbers haven’t changed. In 2018, Greenpeace asked us for information on the volume of primary plastic packaging, which we provided. The 1.7 million tons we reported publically includes secondary and tertiary plastic packaging materials.

How can you help consumers recycle product packaging correctly?

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

What about micro-plastics in bottled water?

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


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