Industry investments in sustainable packaging accelerating

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LONDON — As the end dates to achieve specific sustainability goals near, many large food and beverage companies are accelerating their investments in sustainable packaging initiatives. A poll conducted by the market researcher GlobalData in April showed that nearly 35% of companies have changed their behavior in the past 12 months to achieve environmental, social and governance goals.

“As we step into a post-COVID-19 pandemic world, consumers are reassessing their purchases and manufacturers are aligning their products to the 4Rs of sustainability — reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover — given the target date for various ESG standards edge closer,” said Kiran Raj, practice head of disruptive technology for GlobalData. “Sustainability seems to have outgrown corporate social responsibility (CSR) tokenism to stand at the top of manufacturers’ business agenda, thus accelerating the shift toward a circular economy.”

Nestle SA, Vevey, Switzerland is scheduled to pilot a program featuring paper-based, compostable Nespresso capsules in France and Switzerland next year. After three years of research and development, Nespresso has developed a home compostable paper-based capsule that delivers the coffee with no compromise on the taste experience, according to the company. Consumer demand for compostable packaging is increasing, and an estimated 45% of French people now home compost one or more types of biowaste, the company said.

“Pushing the boundaries of fine coffee experiences is part of the Nespresso innovation, and since becoming a B Corp earlier this year, we’re more committed than ever to widening the sustainable choices we offer our consumers,” said Guillaume Le Cunff, chief executive officer of Nespresso. “We are excited to announce our first ever paper-based home compostable capsule, which will complement our offering of aluminum capsules that are both recyclable and made using 80% recycled aluminum. This is about yet another sustainable choice, without compromising on quality.”

Nestle also invested around $5 million in the Italian venture capital fund Eureka! Fund to accelerate the research of innovative packaging solutions, improve the quality of collection and recycling processes, and increase the adoption of recycled food-grade plastics.

“Although recycling is a step that companies are heading in the right direction, it is not the ultimate solution to sustainability as many recyclable plastics are simply not recycled and considerable energy is required to turn those used products into new ones,” said Shagun Sachdeva, project manager of Disruptive Tech at GlobalData. “As plastics remain in circulation and recycling waste ends up in landfills, the focus is shifting more toward green packaging materials.”

Other sustainable packaging initiatives by large food companies include The Coca-Cola Co, Atlanta, partnering with O-I Glass, Inc., Perrysburg, Ohio, to recycle glass bottles in May 2022. The company also collaborated with Graphic Packaging International, Atlanta, to launch the United States’ first KeelClip paperboard packaging for multipack cans in June 2022 and with e-commerce retailer JD.com Inc to support China’s circular economy in January 2022.

PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, NY, inked a deal with Carlsberg Group, Vesterbro, Copenhagen, Denmark, early this year to minimize its reliance on single-use packaging. It also partnered with blockchain firm Security Matters in June for plastic recycling.

And Danone SA, Paris, moved the entire PS (polystyrene) cups portfolio in the United Kingdom to PET cups and launched PET & rPET cups in France, Spain, and Belgium last year. It invested around $6.2 million in Bailleul, France to transform three out of six production lines into PET, and the cups contain 30% recycled PET.

“Even though key FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) players have sustainable goals in place for the next five to eight years, there are still complexities in terms of scaling, long-term planning, and slow market adoption, making it hard for them to execute the sustainability promise with ease,” Ms. Sachdeva said. “However, in the long run, it will be interesting to watch how companies will make impactful changes on a global scale in the sustainability game.”

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