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Packaging for the future

by Stefano Agostini

Nestlé has announced its ambition to make 100% of its packaging recyclable or re-usable by 2025. Nestlé UK & Ireland CEO, Stefano Agostini, writes for Nestlé about the importance of sustainable packaging and what this means for the UK and Ireland.

stefano agostini

I am very happy that Nestlé is making a clear announcement today on the future of its packaging. Around the world, we will be throwing our efforts behind making all of our packaging either recyclable or re-usable by 2025.

Packaging is fundamental to our business and crucial in delivering safe, high quality food to our consumers as well as reducing food waste. What today’s announcement recognises is that we need to do more to address the sustainability of the packaging we use.

That is not to say we haven’t already being working on this. I spent many years at Nestlé Waters where bottles are a vital part of the product and the environmental impact of our packaging has been at the front of my mind for my whole career. It is very important to me.

The bottles we use at our Nestlé Waters factory in Buxton are already 100% recyclable and among the lightest in the industry but that does not mean we will stop there. Work must continue to reduce the environmental impact of all of our packaging until we reach the point that none of it ends up in landfill or, worse, as litter in our streets, countryside, rivers or oceans.

This is a societal challenge, and a concern shared by everyone. We, along with governments, NGOs and, importantly, consumers want to see recyclability rates go up significantly while the negative impact of packaging waste on the environment falls away completely. With everybody sharing the same aim, through close collaboration, inspired innovation and carefully crafted, joined up initiatives, I know we can do it.

The importance of addressing this issue is a very clear focus area for us in the UK and Ireland. We have established a steering group where senior leaders from across the business will make sure that we are taking a genuine cross category approach. Some of our businesses are further ahead than others but every single one shares the same clear ambition to take action.

The renewed focus on this issue is very timely. The 25 Year Environment Plan, the leadership shown by Scotland, the range of initiatives being considered in Ireland, and all of the various policy proposals currently under consultation or consideration are to be welcomed. At Nestlé, we are of the view that both voluntary and regulatory action could have a role to play, but it will need joined-up thinking and an approach that brings stakeholders together to be truly effective.

Last week’s proposal to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme across the UK, following the work already undertaken in Scotland, is a key example. I believe that Nestlé, as the world’s largest food company, and having experienced similar schemes around the world, can provide some unique insight. We are ready to support where we can. If such a scheme is implemented consistently everywhere, and in a simple format that works for consumers, retailers and businesses, then it could have a significant impact on the recycling rates of drinks containers.

Nevertheless, to make a real difference, it must be part of an all-round solution that links initiatives together. That includes increased production of sustainable packaging, better consumer understanding, a consistent approach to recycling in all parts of the country and the necessary infrastructure of effective recycling facilities.

We are already doing some great things around Nestlé in the UK and Ireland. Our teams at Nespresso have a comprehensive scheme to recycle coffee capsules which means you don’t even need to leave the house and our coffee businesses are also working in collaboration with the rest of the industry and supply chain to trial and develop new and smarter ways to serve great coffee in increasingly sustainable ways.

We continue to work with national and regional organisations to improve access to recycling facilities, and to support consumers to better understand which materials can be recycled. We need to be clearer with our on pack messaging and we are currently reviewing all of the different symbols we use across our packaging to find ways to be more clear and consistent.

We are also applying the same research and development capabilities that enable us to launch world-first products to developing new and innovative packaging solutions. Our Product Technology Centre in York, which was responsible for the recent launch of Milkybar Wowsomes, a chocolate bar containing 30% less sugar thanks to ground breaking new techniques, is applying that same energy and enthusiasm to improving the sustainability of our packaging.

Earlier in the month, if you were lucky enough to receive an Easter egg, you may have noticed that our Nestlé eggs use considerably less plastic and that follows a concerted effort over a number of years to remove 726 tonnes of plastic packaging.

These are all great examples but there is now a lot more work to be done to meet the challenge that we have set for ourselves. I am positive that, with a renewed focus and a clear aim for the future, we will make a difference for the planet that truly reflects Nestlé’s purpose to enhance quality of life and contribute to a healthier future.