Several major FMCG brands are taking part in a global initiative to increase the use of recycled plastic in packaging by more than fivefold by 2025, but two new reports show just how much further they need to go.
More than 400 commercial and governmental organisations – including leading brands such as Unilever, Mars and PepsiCo – are signatories to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which aims to ensure 100% of plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
But in its first annual report, not-for-profit the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the UN Environment Programme warned there is a “long way to go” and that global efforts must accelerate.
Global brands simply are not using enough recycled plastic with even the top performer, Coca-Cola, only managing to use 9% recycled material in its almost three million tonnes of plastic packaging last year, the Financial Times reported.
France’s Danone, the owner of bottled water brands Evian and Volvic, used just 6.4% of recycled plastic in the 820,000 tonnes of material it uses annually for packaging.
Mars, the US confectioner, currently doesn’t use any recycled material at all, the FT reported, while Nestlé, the giant Swiss food and beverage group, used only 2% of recycled plastic in its 1.7 million tonnes of plastic packaging last year.
Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch FMCG group, announced plans earlier this month to slash the amount of virgin plastic it uses by half over the next six years, yet it too is reported to have used less than 1% of recycled plastic in its packaging last year.
“Leading businesses and governments stepped forward by signing the Global Commitment and we can now see promising early progress,” said Sander Defruyt, New Plastics Economy lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
“But there is a long way to go and it is crucial those efforts are accelerated and scaled, and more businesses and governments take action to eliminate plastic pollution at the source,” he added.
Based on data collected by more than 72,000 volunteers during a one-day clean-up in September, Coca-Cola was found to be responsible for 11,732 pieces of plastic litter that was picked up in 37 countries.
The company was the top source of plastic in Africa and Europe and the second largest source in Asia and South America, although it fared better in North America, ranking behind Starbucks, the Solo Cup Company and Nestlé, the worst offender.
Globally, the worst plastic polluters – at least in terms of the amount of litter picked up for the audit – were Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mondelez International and Unilever.
“Any time our packaging ends up in our ocean – or anywhere that it doesn’t belong – is unacceptable to us,” Coca-Colas said in a statement.
“In partnership with others, we are working to address this critical global issue, both to help turn off the tap in terms of plastic waste entering our oceans and to help clean up the existing pollution.”
Sourced from Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Financial Times, Break Free From Plastic, The Intercept; additional content by WARC staff