Why it matters
The issue of packaging waste, notably plastic waste, is of particular public concern. However, packaging is necessary for food safety and quality, protecting food in transportation, extending its shelf life and reducing food waste. This makes food and beverage packaging a unique challenge for Nestlé and our industry. We must develop solutions that reduce packaging volume and impact without compromising on protection. We envision a future without waste, and this means not only increasing plastic recycling but also identifying alternatives, whether in the form of delivery systems or materials.
What we are doing
We achieved our 2020 packaging objectives in 2019 and so have now set our sights on 2025. We formed alliances with key stakeholders to reduce packaging waste and continued to research and roll out alternative packaging solutions. Read more about it in our 2019 progress report.
Our sustainable packaging roadmap
We have achieved our 2020 commitments and are now setting our sights beyond this deadline. By 2025, 100% of our packaging will be recyclable or reusable and we will reduce our use of virgin plastics by one third. Our three-pillar roadmap is guiding our efforts toward 2025:
Develop packaging for the future
- We are eliminating unnecessary packaging and phasing out materials that are not recyclable or are hard to recycle. We are investing more in the development of mono-material packaging, as well as alternative materials such as paper and bio-based plastics and new refill/reuse systems.
Help shape a waste-free future
- We support the design and implementation of affordable and effective mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility schemes, and we are engaged actively across many markets. We have identified 20 countries1, accounting for more than 50% of our plastic usage, where we will initially work to improve recycling rates and infrastructure. This is likely to be a long-term task. Meanwhile, we have identified a number of countries, important for Nestlé, where waste is currently leaking into the oceans. These 12 countries2 account for over 10% of Nestlé plastic usage. Here we have the ambition to collect and recycle the same amount of plastic as we use in our products under a ‘one tonne in, one tonne out’ principle.
1 Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Turkey, Russia, UAE, UK, USA
2 Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam
Drive new behaviors and understanding
- We are engaging our employees in clean-up activities through a global volunteering program while phasing out non-recyclable, single-use plastics in our facilities. We are also working with external partners such as governments, community groups and NGOs to develop community engagement programs that create lasting and impactful change. We believe that we can lead through our brands, connecting with people, raising awareness and driving change in this area.
To further drive innovation and understanding of a circular economy for plastics, Nestlé became a partner of the New Plastics Economy. This initiative, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, was designed to bring together key stakeholders to rethink and redesign the future of plastic.
In 2019, we used 4.6 million tonnes of materials for packaging purposes. Our total global plastics and laminates use was 1524 K tonnes in 2019 (2018: 1689 K tonnes). We have reduced total tonnage by approximately 10% in a period in which the business has continued to grow at a rate of 3.5%.
We are making progress toward achieving a waste-free future. In 2019, about 87% of Nestlé's total packaging by weight and 66% of its total plastic packaging was recyclable or reusable. We know we have more work to do, which is why we are accelerating our actions.
We use several types of plastics in our packaging.
Consumers around the world buy more than one billion Nestlé products every day. This meant that in 2019, Nestlé used 366 billion overall pieces of packaging, of which 281 billion were pieces of plastic.*
Demonstrating our commitment
Project STOP in Indonesia
Indonesia is among a number of Southeast Asian countries working to address ocean plastic pollution. In January 2019, Nestlé became the first food company to join Project STOP, a collaborative initiative launched in 2017. The primary aim of the project is to prevent packaging waste from leaking into the environment, through increasing local recycling efforts. By 2020, Project STOP aims to prevent 2000 tonnes from entering the ocean annually.
The initiative was launched in Muncar, East Java, where 211 tonnes of plastic have been prevented from leaking into the ocean to date. Nestlé is an active partner in the second Project STOP city, Pasuruan, East Java, contributing EUR 1.5 million toward research, materials and training for local people. This three-year project aims to prevent leakage of packaging into the environment, create waste-collecting and -sorting infrastructure within the community and provide local people with new job opportunities.
Project STOP contributes to our plastics neutrality ambition in Indonesia, under which we aim to collect and recover as much plastic packaging as we produce each year.
The Institute of Packaging Sciences
September 2019 was marked by the inauguration of our Institute of Packaging Sciences, the first of its kind in the food industry. The institute will act as a hub from which we can accelerate our efforts to bring functional, more sustainable packaging solutions to market. It will support progress toward our 2025 packaging goals, focusing on areas such as reusable and refillable packaging, simplified materials and bio-based, compostable and biodegradable materials.
We have already made notable progress in developing our packaging, rolling out recyclable paper packaging for both our Nesquik All Natural cocoa powder and Yes! snackbars in under 12 months. Mineral water brand Valvert launched new bottles made from 100% recycled PET (rPET) in Europe, while Poland Spring in the Americas has plans to be the first major bottled water in the US to roll out 100% rPET bottles across its entire water range by 2022.
Developing packaging-free delivery systems and reuse models
Creating more sustainable packaging is one thing, but we are also exploring the growing possibilities for products with no packaging, investing approximately CHF 8 million in reusable ventures to date. In our Swiss Nestlé shops, we have launched trials for bulk shopping. Through these pilots, consumers are able to bring their own containers and fill them with products, currently Purina dry pet food and Nescafé, then pay by weight. We are also piloting the MIWA dispenser system in our Swiss Nestlé shops to determine the feasibility of this new bulk delivery system.
In January 2019, we partnered up with Loop, a service developed by TerraCycle, to trial a package return scheme. The initiative, currently piloting in New York, will allow consumers to purchase a range of foods, beverages and personal care items in durable packaging that can then be collected, cleaned and reused. Several of our products will be available through the service, including our Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Gerber infant food, Purina pet food, Nestlé Waters and Chameleon coffee. We are now in the process of establishing a similar service in France, in partnership with supermarket chain Carrefour.
Giving plastic packaging a new life
Nestlé strives to encourage consumers to treat all packaging responsibly at the end of its life. That’s why Gerber, our early childhood nutrition brand, has expanded its partnership with TerraCycle. Through a return scheme, parents can simply send back any packaging that is not easily recycled. It will then be cleaned and melted down into hard plastic, which can be used to make new products. This way we’re keeping packaging out of the environment and giving it a new life.