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Plastics

And The Corporate Response

CORPORATE ACTION

UK WRAP Progress Report Show Widespread Plastic Reduction Efforts

A one-year progress report by UK WRAP members shows plastic reduction strategies progressing on numerous fronts.  In 2018 WRAP launched the UK Plastic Pact, that has four 2025 targets:
  1. Eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models
  2. 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable
  3. 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted
  4. 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging

These targets are amongst the most meaningful yet established and the progress report gives view into how companies are moving forward, with a breakdown of company action across each of the targets. It contains the insignificant (Nestle introduced reusable coffee cups to head office sites) to the material (Tesco, Asda and Aldi combined have removed almost 700 tons of non-recyclable polystyrene pizza bases by introducing a cardboard alternative).

Pact targets run to 2025 but WRAP is challenging members to act faster. For example, it’s encouraging them remove polystyrene and PVC from food packaging by the end of 2019 and non-food products by the end of 2020. [Image Credit: © WRAP]

CORPORATE ACTION: Nestlé

Poland Spring To Use 100% rPET In Its Bottles By 2022


Nestlé Waters’ natural spring water brand, Poland Spring, announced it has begun moving to recycled plastic (rPET) for its bottles and aims to use 100% recycled plastic across all of its still water portfolio by 2022. The first products to use 100% rPET will be its 1-liter bottles, as well as the newly-launched Poland Spring® ORIGIN line in 900ml bottles. The brand’s packaging is currently 100% recyclable, but Nestlé Waters believes the next phase is to use more recycled material. Given recycling rates in the US are around 30%, the brand admits that it needs to invest more to ensure there is enough recycled PET, and is working with the Closed Loop Fund and other organizations to expand the recycling infrastructure, and also to raise awareness of the need to recycle, through initiatives like the How2Recycle labels on its packaging. [Image Credit: © Nestlé Waters]

CORPORATE ACTION: PepsiCo

PepsiCo’s Recycle Rally Instils Recycling Behavior In Kids

PepsiCo Recycling announced that its Recycle Rally diverted some 10 million pounds of waste material in the 2018-19 academic year. The scheme is now in over 6,000 K-12 US schools, which compete in an annual contest to collect the most recyclable material. Paul Perea from one of the winning schools says the $50,000 prize will fund green initiatives, including an aquaponics system to recycle fish waste as fertilizer. The company launched the PepsiCo Recycling initiative on Earth Day 2010. It is designed to take recycling solutions to academic sites, as well as retail locations in North America. [Image Credit: © PepsiCo]

CORPORATE ACTION: Procter & Gamble

Olay To Test Refillable Regenerist Whip Moisturizer Online Later This Year

Procter & Gamble brand Olay will be testing a refill approach to reducing single-use plastic. In October this year, shoppers will be able to buy a refillable Olay Regenerist Whip moisturizer that will include a full jar and a refill pod, to be inserted in the empty jar. It will be sold and shipped in a 100% recycled paper container with no outer carton. The pods are made from recyclable polypropylene. It will be tested on Olay.com in the US and UK, as well as selected online retailers, for three months. In time, the brand may sell the pods separately.[Image Credit: © Proctor & Gamble]

CORPORATE ACTION: Unilever

Unilever Claims Solution To Recycling Black Plastic Bottles, Offers To Share Learnings

‘Carbon black’ pigment used in black plastic is effectively invisible to near infra-red light automatic optical sorting machines, meaning black plastic gets sent for waste. Unilever claims to have solved this by adding a new detectable black pigment for High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) bottles. 

Trials with RECOUP and waste management companies Veolia, Viridor, Suez and TOMRA show this new pigment can be technically detected at UK recycling facilities. Unilever says its TRESemmé brand has already started to use this detectable plastic and Lynx will follow later this year.  The company estimates that each year up to 2,500 tonnes of black plastic bottles could now potentially be sorted and sent for recycling in the UK. 

Unilever says the “knowledge and expertise from developing this solution will be made accessible to others in the industry, as well as to other markets globally.”[Image Credit: © Unilever plc]

Whole Foods Announces Further Efforts To Reduce Plastic Use

By July 2019, Whole Foods says it will eliminate plastic straws from stores in the US, Canada and the UK, the first US national grocery to do so (plastic straws will still be available on request for disabled customers). It will also make packaging changes to some items, including introducing rotisserie chicken bags to replace hard plastic containers and smaller plastic bags for its produce department. All up, the company estimates these changes will save about 800,000 pounds of plastic a year. 

Whole Foods has previously undertaken various efforts to reduce plastic use. It was the first US grocery to ban disposable plastic bags at checkouts (in 2008) and has ended all polystyrene/Styrofoam meat trays across stores in the US and Canada.[Image Credit: © Whole Foods Market]

CORPORATE ACTION: Whole Foods

Pressure To Reduce Packaging Forcing Brands And Retailers To Adopt Four Core Strategies

Consumer concern along with greater regulatory pressure means retailers are moving to reduce packaging, and especially plastic packaging. 

A BCG survey of 5,000 consumers found nearly 60% said they are less likely to buy products in packaging that is harmful to the environment, and approaching 25% would pay up to 20% extra for products with eco-friendly packaging.

Packaging is a large target, accounting for 65% of household trash and about 10% of the cost of consumer goods. Moreover, the cost of disposing of it is rising, encouraging suppliers and retailers to act. They are pushing four core strategies. Bulk selling, with consumers bringing their own reusable containers is rising. Products are getting more concentrated, allowing for smaller containers. Better design, sometimes with new materials, is allowing lighter containers or greater use of recyclable content.  And some products are being sold without packaging, or just a minimal amount, such as with Lush and By Humankind.[Image Credit: © sofisorgin]

CORPORATE ACTION: Other

Sainsbury’s Expands Its Commitment To Reducing Plastic Use

The British supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s, announced it would cut an additional 1,284 tonnes of plastic in 2019, including almost 500 tonnes of plastic bags used for fruit, vegetables and bakery products. They will continue to be available for bakery items, but not for fruit and vegetables. A previous commitment pledged an annual reduction of some 8,100 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic and “virgin plastic”. It will also stop using plastic cutlery from stores, as well as plastic trays for a number of vegetables. Other efforts include using recyclable alternatives for black plastic trays, and PVC and polystyrene trays. [Image Credit: © Sainsbury's]

PACKAGING REDESIGNS

Food Delivery Boom Is Creating A Plastic Waste Challenge That China Is Not Yet Able To Meet

The food takeout and delivery industry in China is creating huge growth in plastic waste, with researchers claiming that online takeouts, fueled by mobile apps, created 1.6 million tons of packaging waste in 2017, nine times the volume of 2015. It includes plastic containers, chopsticks, spoons and bags. Although people in China generate less plastic waste per capita than their American counterparts, landfills are not well managed. Takeout boxes are not typically recycled, and China accounts for a quarter of all plastic waste disposed of in the open, but the government has been working to make recycling more efficient and better managed. The country has also stopped importing waste, hoping that recyclers focus on domestic waste, but other government policies have hampered the informal recycling carried out by “scavengers”, who have yet to be replaced by more formal recycling businesses. [Image Credit: © KaiPilger]

Waitrose In The UK Claims The First Home Compostable Ready Meal Trays

Waitrose, a supermarket chain in the UK, has introduced what it claims is the first home compostable ready meal packaging in the world, as part of its efforts to eliminate black plastic from some nine million products. It will first be used in trays for the company’s own brand Italian ready meals. The new packaging is fiber-based, and feels like cardboard. The trays can be used to heat meals in the oven or in a microwave. They are also certified by the Forest Stewardship Council certified and can be recycled. The move follows the retailer’s decision to remove black plastic from its fresh items, such as fruit and vegetables, meat and fish. [Image Credit: © Waitrose & Partners]

ASDA Trials New Chicken Packaging That Cuts Plastic Requirements


UK supermarket chain ASDA is trialing a package system for fresh chicken that it claims will eliminate 75 tonnes of plastic waste. It will cut plastic used by over half in its 250g and 500g packs of diced chicken breasts and mini chicken fillets by using soft pouches instead of hard plastic trays. The pilot is being conducted in 68 stores served by its Bristol depot in the southwest of England. With the new packs, consumers don’t have to handle the chicken, reducing the risk of cross-contamination. They also take less space than the trays, reducing the carbon footprint and easing storage needs.[Image Credit: © ASDA]

POLICY, REGULATION & LEGAL

Japan Makes New Plastics Pledge In Advance Of G20 Summit In Osaka

In advance of the June 2019 G20 summit in Osaka, the Japanese government launched a new policy package to reduce plastic waste. The plan includes cutting the volume of plastic waste flowing into the ocean by providing technical support for developing countries in the region, as well as developing materials that decompose more safely, and promoting recycling. The government aims to cut disposable plastic waste by 25% by the end of the next decade, and fully recycling or reusing that waste by 2035. Retailers will have to charge for plastic bags. [Image Credit: © Wiki Commons]

INNOVATION & TECHNOLOGY

Mondi Group Develops Flexible Packaging From Consumer Waste

Project Proof is an initiative led by Mondi Group and facilitated by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. It has developed a prototype flexible plastic pouch containing at least 20% post-consumer plastic waste from household waste and suitable for household products like detergent. Mondi will continue the work to see if it can be viable at scale. Project Proof also aims to develop a form fill and seal (FFS) pouch for long-life food products, by avoiding the need for the aluminum barrier often found in food-grade plastic packaging to extend shelf-life. Mondi is also involved in other Pioneer Projects run by EMF.[Image Credit: © Mondi Group]

More Than 150 Brands Use Braskem’s Green Polyethylene From Sugarcane

Braskem, a Brazilian petrochemical company, has for over a decade been developing a plastic using ethanol from sugarcane. The company says it’s the first polyethylene from a renewable source, and helps reduce greenhouse gases by capturing carbon monoxide in its production. Braskem says the green polyethylene has the same technical properties as fossil fuel-based plastic, including HDPE (high density polyethylene), LDPE (low density polyethylene), and LLDPE (linear low-density polyethylene). The company’s production plant in the Rio Grande do Sul state, in southern Brazil, has an annual capacity of 200,000 tons, and has started to export to other South American markets, as well as North America, Asia and Europe. It claims that the green polyethylene is already being used by over 150 brands, including from Brazilian companies O Boticário and Neutrox, as well as companies further afield, such as Shiseido and Bulldog.[Image Credit: © Braskem]

OTHER NEWS

Lithuanian Scientists Develop Biodegradable and Transparent Food-Grade Plastic

Researchers at Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania have developed a transparent and biodegradable food-grade plastic that will decompose in a home compost bin in two years. It is made from cellulose. Consumers are used to being able to see the sandwiches, snacks and pastries they buy, which usually means using paper or card with a plastic window. Paper degrades but it isn’t easy to separate it from the plastic, making it difficult to recycle or compost. Using biodegradable plastic means the whole packaging can be composted. [Image Credit: © Kaunas University of Technology]
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