What is the issue?

Food and drink packaging is vital for preventing waste, maintaining product quality during shelf life, extending shelf life, and informing consumers. However, food packaging also has environmental impacts throughout its life-cycle.

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Why is it important?

To live up to our commitments to the environment and our consumers, we need to find ways to optimise the performance of our packaging while also saving materials and avoiding waste.

In the last two decades, recovery of value from used packaging has become important. Nestlé has helped lead the way in supporting research on recycling and promoting recovery of materials and energy to yield a net positive benefit.
Jane Bickerstaffe – Director, INCPEN


  • Achieved
  • By 2014 – Help identify and promote appropriate methods for the collection, sorting and recycling of mixed plastics.
  • Not yet achieved
  • By 2015 – 95% of our packaging to be recyclable.
  • As of the end of 2015, 93% of our packaging was recyclable, just missing our target of 95%. We plan to continue working to achieve this target based on a revised timeline.

Reducing the environmental impact of packaging waste.


Reducing costs by saving on packaging materials and decreasing packaging weight.

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What are we doing about it?

Packaging has potential environmental impacts throughout its entire life-cycle, from the manufacturing process to how consumers dispose of it.

When designing our packaging, we take a holistic approach to assessing environmental impacts across its entire life cycle, aiming for performance and functionality while seeking to optimise weight and volume. We also use recycled materials where beneficial, safe and appropriate.

We support initiatives to recycle or recover energy from used packaging. For example, we are a member of the Industry Council for Research on Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN).

Reducing packaging weight in our supply chain

From 2014 to 2015, Nestlé UK and Ireland removed over 425 tonnes of packaging from the supply chain through a number of design changes.

We constantly reduce the weight and volume of our packaging through design innovations. For example, by harmonising carton sizes for Nescafé Café Menu cappuccino stickpacks, we have been able to save more than 163 tonnes of cardboard annually. As well as saving on packaging materials, we can now fit more packs onto one pallet. That means an estimated 14% fewer lorries on the road, per tonne of coffee distributed.

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Encouraging consumers to recycle plastics

We know that our consumers are keen to recycle more. However, plastic recycling is an area that is often misunderstood, with many consumers confused about which plastics can be recycled, or unaware that plastic packaging can be recycled at all.

To help address the issue, we supported Pledge4Plastics, a national initiative launched by Recoup, the UK members-based plastics recycling organisation. The aim of Pledge4Plastics is to raise consumer awareness of the benefits of recycling plastics and to give them a better understanding of which plastics can be recycled through local authority collection services.

Alongside this, Nestlé Waters UK has been working in partnership with Recoup and Waste Buster to develop a recycling educational toolkit for primary and secondary schools in the UK. This has been launched successfully within local schools in Buxton.

Improving the recyclability of plastics

In 2015, we continued to work on collaborative projects to improve the recyclability of plastics. These include a project to explore the options for collecting flexible laminate packaging containing aluminium, so that the plastics can be recovered and converted into fuel, and the aluminium recycled.

As part of this project, we carried out a nine-month trial in 2015 to test the feasibility of including aluminium-based flexible laminate packaging in existing household recycling schemes. The trial used Enval’s pioneering aluminium recovery technology, and was funded by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The results of the trial will be released in 2016.

We are also collaborating with Innovate UK on a two-year research and development project to create a circular economy for flexible packaging. Due to complete by the end of 2016, the project aims to introduce new packaging designs which allow improved material recovery, along with marking and sorting techniques to make it easier to separate recyclable materials. Another planned outcome will be design guidelines for recyclability that are usable by all brand owners and retailers.

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What’s next?

We will continue assessing the environmental impacts of packaging across its entire life cycle using our internal eco-design tools. We will also continue to engage in activities on communication and educational programs for consumers on recycling, as well as supporting innovative projects looking at new collection and recovery methods for packaging.