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Unwrapping Nestlé's progress on packaging and plastics

progress packaging

At Nestlé, we are committed to being a responsible corporate citizen and taking bold action to address the urgent issue of packaging waste.

As a major food and drinks manufacturer offering products across multiple categories, we understand the critical role packaging plays in our business. It keeps our products safe and fresh on their journey to consumers, enables them to be transported and delivered safely, and offers information about the product itself.

But we also recognise the urgent need to address the environmental impact of packaging waste, particularly plastics. As a responsible corporate citizen, we are committed to taking bold action to reduce waste, prevent plastics from ending up in our oceans, explore alternatives to disposable packaging, and make our packaging easier to recycle. 

In 2018, we set out our vision for a world where "none of our packaging, including plastics, ends up in landfill, as litter or in our oceans". We announced a target to make 100% of our packaging reusable or recyclable by 2025.

To achieve this, we established the Nestlé Institute of Packaging Sciences, the first of its kind in the food industry, to accelerate action and explore innovative packaging materials and ways of delivering our products to consumers while reducing our impact on the environment.

We also committed to paying up to CHF 1.5 billion in premiums for food-grade recycled plastics up to 2025, with the aim of reducing virgin plastics usage by one third by 2025 and incorporating 30% recycled content into our packaging within the same timeframe.

Less packaging, better packaging, better systems

We have adopted a five-pillar strategy to drive activity across three main areas - less packaging, better packaging, and a better system.  

5 steps

Our UK and Ireland innovations in this area range from achieving 100% rPET across our Buxton mineral water range to transitioning to mono material pouches in our Purina pet food range, decreasing headspace across a range of confectionery products and transitioning Quality Street to recyclable paper packaging in 2022.

As our 2022 Creating Shared Value and Sustainability Report shows, we've moved beyond peak plastics globally while our business continues to grow. We've reduced virgin plastics by more than 10% since 2018, and 81.9% of our plastic packaging is now designed for recycling. More than a third of our packaging is made from recycled and/or renewable material and the total weight of our packaging has decreased year on year since 2020.

Changing world creates new challenges

We recognise that the world has changed since 2018. Setting aside the external pressures faced over the last few years, our ambition was set out at a time when we anticipated the rapid development of collection and recycling infrastructure, and these are elements which are out of our direct control.

In the UK, we've also seen policy delays by Government. Plans to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme, where consumers can receive a small financial benefit for returning their beverage containers to be recycled, Extended Producer Responsibility, where companies pay the full net costs of managing and recycling the packaging waste they produce, and consistent recycling collections from households, have been pushed back. Without the introduction of these policies, the collection and recycling of flexible plastic packaging like pouches, bags and wrappers remain challenging, although we welcomed the rollout of kerbside collection for these items in Ireland last year.

That's why earlier this year we reframed our packaging commitment at a global level to focus on elements directly within our control - the design of our packaging and the materials we use in it. Here in the UK and Ireland, work continues at pace to ensure as close to 100% of our packaging is designed for recycling by 2025. We are continuing to work on actively achieving 100% of our packaging recyclable or reusable through initiatives such as supporting the investment in collection, sorting and recycling schemes.

Collaboration is key

We are willing to collaborate with all parties to tackle these issues, and we have formed cross-industry alliances and teamed up with competitors to launch initiatives like the Flexible Plastic Fund. We have been part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy since 2017 and pledged to work as an industry to create a circular economy for plastics. We are signatories of the UK Plastics Pact, joining forces with others across the industry to stimulate action and meet targets on plastic packaging. We are advocating for a legally binding United Nations Treaty on Plastic Pollution, which we hope will lead to new, harmonised national regulations, and we are participating in the UK national treaty dialogues with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). 


Alongside redesigning our own packaging and reducing virgin material use we're working with others across industry and Government to advocate for well-designed EPR and DRS schemes. These will incentivise recyclable packaging design and stimulate the development of much-needed recycling infrastructure to ensure used packaging remains in the circular economy loop.

We are on a journey, and we are continuing to work very hard, but we know we still have a lot to do.