Recycling is top of the agenda

smarties
Alison Bramfitt, Group Packaging Manager for Nestlé UK & Ireland, writes about the progress we’re making on our packaging commitments

Recycling is top of the agenda

Packaging helps keep our food safe and fresh and ultimately helps to avoid food waste; however, we need to take further action to address the impact of packaging at the end of its life, driving a circular economy. A collaborative approach is going to be key to achieve this.

At Nestlé, we continue to transform our packaging through innovation, eliminating non-recyclable materials, with the aim to make it as easy as possible to be recycled. The issue of plastic waste ending up in the environment is one of the most pressing global challenges the world faces.

With hundreds of products in our portfolio in the UK, this is no easy task, but it is something we are all working very hard to achieve. We have committed to make 100% of our packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025 and to reduce our use of virgin plastics by one-third in the same period. So far, 87% of our total packaging and 66% of our plastic packaging is recyclable or reusable. Reaching the goal we have set ourselves requires a wide range of actions and collaborations with our suppliers and customers and we know we need to go further.

Why is recycling important?

Recycling is vitally important to reduce our reliance on the earths precious materials and keep these materials in the system as part of the “circular economy”. This means that waste is collected, recycled and produced to make something new. A great example of this is our partnership with Biffa in the UK, who are supporting Nestlé Waters UK to achieve its commitment of making every Buxton bottle from 100% recycled PET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate or rPET). They will do this by collecting used PET bottles, so we can turn them back into a new recycled PET bottle.

This not only relies on us as a company to ensure the packaging we place on the market is recyclable but also for the right infrastructure to be in place to collect, sort and recycle, and for citizens to know how and where to recycle. We are keen to play our role to support the increase in the recycling rates in the UK and Ireland. The proposed changes in the future Extended Producer Responsibility Regulations, expected in 2023, will play an import role in driving significant change. There is also a role for voluntary action, where we can collaborate to boost recycling and solve complex challenges together. Nestlé UK is a founding member of the UK Plastic Pact, which is a great example of how this can work. These types of initiatives will be essential to achieve the transformational change we need.

Let’s not forgot the important role our consumers play; we can design our packaging to be recyclable, but it will not be recycled until the consumer places the packaging in the right bin. According to a study by Recoup, the global pandemic saw 26% more material being recycled, a positive sign that people want to recycle but will this carry on? We hope so.

What are we doing?

We have made some progress in this area with brands like Smarties switching away from plastic to innovative paper packaging and Buxton increasing the use of recycled PET in its water bottles and Nestlé UK & Ireland creating partnerships with Biffa and Plastic Energy where we are supporting new recycling operations within the UK. With the ultimate aim of increasing our use of recycled plastics, which is beneficial to the environment.

More recently, we have started using bio-based lids and scoops made from sugar cane and its by-product for a range of our nutrition products for infants and children. Our new cereal packs are now using between 13% and 15% less packaging than before, saving an estimated 618 tonnes of plastic and cardboard each year.

And we have also joined forces with other industry leaders with our Podback scheme, to recycle coffee pods, and the Flexible Packaging Consortium which has recommended flexible packaging could be collected in kerbside recycling schemes.

We know recycling isn’t the responsibility of one company or one individual alone, but we all need to play our part to tackle this enormous issue.

How you can help recycle at home

What can you do to support recycling in your home and everyday life? If you are unsure if you can recycle a packaging material use  the Recycle Now | Where and How to Recycle  website to check what you can and can’t recycle in your local authority.

You normally find labelling on the recyclability of the packaging on the back of pack, always check for The On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL), which should clearly tell you if the packaging can be recycled or not.

It is better for the recycler if you can clean the empty packaging before placing into your recycling bin, especially if it contains food residue.

Finally, if you are out and you are unable to find a nearby recycling bin, why not take the packaging home to be recycled. If we all make little changes in how we recycle, it will make a big difference