Countries are increasingly regulating plastic packaging, and companies are having to re-think how they package their products. For example, the European Union’s amended Directive 94/62/EC on Packaging and Packaging Waste includes a mandatory 55% recycling rate for plastic packaging by 2030. Additionally, California is requiring that plastic beverage containers be manufactured from certain amounts of post-consumer recycled plastic.
While these regulations present compliance challenges for companies, many have already taken these challenges and turned them into opportunities for innovation. Read on to learn more about sustainable packaging initiatives companies have adopted.
Earlier this year, Starbucks announced plans to decrease the use of disposable paper cups in its stores. To reduce single-use waste, Starbucks plans to allow customers to either bring their own cups or borrow a ceramic or reusable to-go cup from its stores. Starbucks has already rolled out reusable-cup pilot programs in multiple markets around the world. Through Starbucks’ Borrow a Cup program, customers pay $1 to borrow a reusable cup from the store. If the customer returns the cup to the store, they get a $1 credit and earn rewards through Starbucks’ rewards program.
The company’s reusable cups are made from recyclable lightweight polypropylene and can replace 100 single-use disposable cups. Starbucks plans to let customers bring their own cups to stores by the end of 2023 (it has asked customers not to bring their own cups to stores during the COVID-19 pandemic) and plans to provide customers with reusable cup options by 2025.
Starbucks is also looking at ways to seamlessly integrate reusable cups for customers using its drive-thru and mobile ordering options. The company’s eco-friendly initiatives include a shift away from single-use packaging to achieve a 50% waste reduction in its stores by 2030.
In September 2021, jewelry manufacturer and retailer Pandora launched reduced plastic packaging for use in its stores and for purchases made online. The new designs use 75% less plastic and will lead to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings of over 60%. The company is also eliminating all plastic from its carrier bags. Additionally, all paper the company uses in its bags and boxes is FSC-certified, meaning that it comes from well-managed forests or has been recycled.
PepsiCo Europe set a goal to use 100% recycled or renewable plastic in all its packets by 2030, which will reduce GHG emissions from film packaging by up to 40%. The initiative will affect chip brands such as Doritos, Lays and Walkers. PepsiCo Europe is transitioning all its bags to include materials that will make them easier to recycle and meet the recycling guidelines developed by the Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging. This includes the use of “mono-materials,” which is one of the trends we highlighted in our “Top 9 Sustainable Packaging Trends” article.
Through the initiative, PepsiCo Europe said it is working toward building a circular economy for flexible packaging in Europe. The initiative is part of the company’s PepsiCo Positive sustainability campaign, which focuses on sustainable agriculture, achieving net zero emissions in its value chain and reducing single-use plastic, in addition to other goals.
Kraft Heinz is developing a paper-based version of its HEINZ Ketchup bottle that will be made from 100% sustainably sourced wood pulp. Kraft Heinz is working with sustainable packaging technology company Pulpex to develop the packaging, which is recyclable in paper waste streams. The paper-based HEINZ Ketchup bottle initiative is part of Kraft Heinz’s goal to make all packaging globally recyclable or compostable by 2025 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Kraft Heinz and Pulpex are working to test the ketchup bottle prototype and are looking at ways to use the technology in other products.
Home furnishings company IKEA announced a commitment to eliminate plastic from consumer packaging for all new products by 2025. It plans to expand the initiative to its existing product range by 2028. IKEA has already decreased the amount of packaging it uses—less than 10% of the total volume of its packaging materials consists of plastics. To meet its goals, the company plans to focus on using paper packaging due to its recyclability.
How to Create a Sustainable Packaging Strategy
Both consumers and regulators are putting pressure on companies to use more sustainable packaging. As this pressure mounts, companies will need to ensure the packaging they use is compliant with regulations and meets consumer demands. As the above examples show, it’s possible to integrate sustainable packaging strategies into a company’s current and future product lines.
As we move to a circular economy, companies will need to take a holistic approach to assessing the environmental impact of their packaging. Conducting a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) allows companies to calculate the environmental impact of their packaging, identify sustainable packaging options and compare the environmental impact of different packaging solutions.
LCAs help companies make data-driven decisions and can be an essential part of a company’s ESG journey. With the right data, software and expertise, companies can create sustainable packaging strategies that are good for consumers, regulators and the planet alike.