By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Although “this will not be easy,” multinational food and beverage firm Nestlé said it has joined the list of other big companies committing to eliminate use of virgin plastics by one third by 2025 as part of Europe’s first regional initiative toward a circular plastics economy.
A statement showed that Nestlé has signed the European Plastics Pact, initiated by France and the Netherlands, targeting to stop the region’s sole dependence on virgin plastics, which are made from non-renewable fossil fuel.
To be specific, the Pact wants to reduce virgin plastic products and packaging by at least 20 percent; raise collection and recycling capacity in Europe for plastic packaging by at least 25 percent; and boost the use of recycled plastics in packaging to an average of at least 30 percent.
“This will not be easy. Nestlé’s top priority is the safety of its products. Any plastics used for food packaging must be ‘food grade,” which means it cannot contain any substances harmful to humans.
In order to achieve food grade recycled plastics, recycling processes will have to evolve,” Nestlé said in the statement.
Marco Settembri, Nestlé CEO for Europe, Middle East and North Africa, said the company now wants to make sure that its other packaging, such as its wrappers and pouches, can be recycled into new food packaging.
“One of our joint objectives is to create a circular economy by improving collection, sorting and recycling schemes across Europe,” Settembri said.
“Already today a new Vittel plastic bottle is manufactured out of used ones,” he added.
The challenge for Nestlé, and the food industry at large, is that it is currently cheaper to produce packaging from virgin plastics than to use recycled food grade plastics.
To overcome this, Nestlé recently announced an investment of more than CHF 1.5 billion in recycled food grade plastics.
This aims at giving a clear signal to recycling companies to focus on recycled food grade material and help create a new market.
To further reduce the use of virgin plastics, Nestlé is reinventing the ways it delivers its products.
Right now, the company had put on trial a packaging-free system for dispensing Purina PetCare pet food and NESCAFÉ soluble coffee.
Nestlé has also partnered with LOOP, a home-delivery service providing reusable packaging. First products will soon become available in France.
To further accelerate this process of innovation, Nestlé has launched a CHF 250 million sustainable packaging fund focusing on start-ups developing packaging innovation, including new materials, as well as refill systems and recycling solutions.