The company has listed materials and structures it is eliminating. What plastics will remain in the packaging portfolio?
Peterson: PET will remain in the Nestlé portfolio because it is 100% recyclable, and we are committed to helping ensure those recycled PET bottles make their way back into the supply chain, so they can be made into new bottles again and again. In fact, our Nestlé Waters North America business has committed to achieving 50% recycled plastic content across its U.S. domestic portfolio by 2025.
[Ed. Note: Nestlé is collaborating with external partners and has formed a global partnership with Danimer Scientific to develop a marine biodegradable and recyclable bottle for its water business. For more information, read this article published March 4 by sister publication PlasticsToday: Nestlé taps Danimer Scientific PHA for biodegradable water bottle development].
What’s the downside in shifting from durable plastic packaging, and is the company willing to pay a premium for alternatives?
Peterson: Plastic packaging plays an important role in safely delivering food and drinks to consumers and reducing food waste, so we need to carefully consider alternatives before making changes. We are determined to look at every option to solve these complex challenges. As we evaluate new packaging formats, the cost impact will be variable. In some cases, packaging costs will be lower, some measures will be cost neutral, and in some cases the new materials may be more expensive.
What’s the “secret” to using paper packaging in applications that would seem to call for a barrier that may render the material structure hard(er) to recycle?
Peterson: We have to think outside the existing packaging formats. We believe that for paper applications, a new generation of barrier coating will allow consumers to dispose of such packaging in the paper recycling stream. In many cases we feel we may need to change the primary structure all together to promote recyclability.
Is the “plastic-free packaging for Smarties in 2019” specifically paper-based?
Peterson: Yes, the packaging will be paper-based. We are currently running trials on new materials and technologies to substitute these plastic materials starting later this year.
One of the plastic packaging components Nestlé will be eliminating is straws—when will that happen and what is the replacement?
Peterson: Starting in February 2019, Nestlé will begin to eliminate all plastic straws from its products, using alternative materials like paper as well as innovative designs to reduce littering. We are testing different options, including substituting plastic straws for paper and designing drinkable spouts to eliminate straws altogether. These pilots will help us identify how best we can eliminate plastic straws in the shortest possible timeframe. We will report on our progress regularly.
What metrics and benchmarks is the company using to determine how it is progressing?
Peterson: We have made a number of global commitments to help achieve this, including the elimination of non-recyclable plastics. Nestlé is working toward the following global objectives by 2020:
- Continue to systematically analyze and optimize our packaging portfolio, avoiding the use of at least 140,000 tonnes of packaging material from 2015 to 2020; and
- Drive alliances with relevant stakeholders to address packaging waste management and marine littering in 10 relevant markets.
What’s the biggest challenge to all of the above in pivoting to a sustainable packaging-led company?
Peterson: Nestlé is driven by its purpose: enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future. Nestlé has always had a sustainable mindset for packaging, but we felt it was important to set an ambitious goal: 100% of our packaging will be reusable or recyclable by 2025. We realize that much more work is required to make this vision a reality, but we are determined to get there.
Lastly, where does reducing food waste fit and is it part of the company’s sustainability initiative? What technologies can be leveraged to address this issue?
Peterson: Nestlé is striving to achieve zero environmental impact across our operations by 2030. Our commitment to reduce food loss and waste is a key part of that ambition. We’re working to achieve zero disposal in all of our sites globally by 2020. We are also addressing food waste at the consumption stage by making date labels more understandable to our consumers. Through a number of partnerships and alliances, we work to educate individuals and families about food loss and waste, offering on-pack guidance and developing creative solutions for using up leftovers. For multiserve products, we incorporate packaging features and guidance that allow the consumer to keep the product fresh longer. Some of these features include reclosable caps and zippers on flexible packaging.
To watch the video of Nestlé’s Walt Peterson presenting the company’s sustainable packaging positioning live, see How Nestlé is innovating its way to 100% recyclable or reusable packaging, published February 2019.
You’ll find a myriad of packaging options at PackEx Toronto June 4-6, 2019, where you can search out fresh ideas in containers and design, evaluate the latest machinery and automation solutions and experience free education at Centre Stage. For more information, visit PackEx Toronto. ___________________________________________________________________________________