A push towards a circular economy for plastic packaging

Food and beverage companies have signed on to the European Plastic Pact and pledged to accelerate a circular economy for plastic packaging in Europe. In addition, large corporations such as Nestlé and Perrier started new initiatives to invest in innovative and sustainable packaging solutions.

The European Plastics Pact is a public-private coalition that aims to accelerate the move towards a circular economy for plastic packaging in Europe. Launched in March in Brussels, 15 governments and 66 companies have signed on to the pact, including large food and beverage companies such as Unilever and Nestlé. This is also the first regional pact to join the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact network. The pact was initiated by the French Ministry of the Ecological and Solidarity Transition, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, and the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food, in consultation with more than 80 organisations from across Europe. Its members will cooperate across the value chain on a European scale to boost the development of smarter techniques and approaches, harmonise guidelines, standards, and national supporting frameworks, and connect to share best practices and lessons learned across Europe.

Sustainable packaging fund will invest CHF 250 million

In addition, many food companies that have signed the pact have set themselves further sustainability commitments. Many of these goals include increased availability of products that come in sustainable packaging. Marco Settembri, Nestlé CEO for Europe, Middle East, and North Africa said: “We are pleased to sign the European Pact. One of our joint objectives is to create a circular economy by improving collection, sorting, and recycling schemes across Europe.” Building on its 2018 commitment to make 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, Nestlé already announced in January its aim to reduce its use of virgin plastics by one third in the same period. Thus, to create a market, Nestlé is committed to sourcing up to two million metric tons of food-grade recycled plastics, allocating more than CHF1.5bn to pay a premium for these materials between now and 2025. In addition to its in-house research through the Nestlé Institute of Packaging Sciences, the company launched a CHF250m sustainable packaging venture fund to invest in start-up companies that focus on these areas.

Some brands within the Nestlé group also launched their own initiatives, such as Perrier with its Next Packaging Movement. Through this programme, Perrier will invest in three startups: Biotic, Flexikeg, and PlastiSkul. The startups were selected from among 90 submissions, following an application process launched in April 2019, which evaluated key factors, such as the breakthrough dimension of the proposed solutions, potential environmental and social benefits, and the ability to scale across the sparkling water market and the broader beverage industry. The three winning startups will receive technical, operational, and financial support to help bring their solutions to market by 2025.