Plastic is durable, hardwearing, economical, lightweight and convenient. It’s the perfect way to transport food and beverages while keeping them sterile, hygienic and safe. But it’s many of these very advantages that make it a problem when it ends up in nature.
Source: UN Environment Programme
Getting drastic on plastic
As we all know, the properties that made plastic so popular, now threaten the planet. It takes a very long time to break down, up to 500 years in landfill, just under that in our oceans. As it breaks down to smaller and smaller pieces, it produces microplastics. And when it does eventually fully break down, it releases chemical pollutants.
Yet, plastic packaging remains essential for protecting food and beverages, extending shelf-life and preventing food waste. No one has yet found an alternative – a zero impact packaging solution.
Replacing plastic packaging is not an easy task. Whatever is used must be approved by the Food Standards Agency. PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is currently the only approved form of plastic safe for use in direct contact with food. Other suitable materials, such as glass and metal, can be used but also come with their own challenges including being heavier, so require more fuel to transport.
What are we doing about it?
Pact and ready to go
In 2018, we were a founding member of The UK Plastics Pact, a collaboration of UK businesses, NGOs and governments working toward four goals:
- Eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (reuse) delivery model.
- 100% of plastics packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable
- 70% of plastics packaging effectively recycled or composted
- 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging.
In 2020, we also signed the European Plastics Pact, reinforcing our commitment to achieve 100% recyclable or reusable packaging and reduce the use of virgin plastics by a third by 2025.
We want to keep plastic in the economy and out of the ocean.
Why even 100% is not enough
Like us, many multinational food and beverage companies are aiming for 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025. But with only 14% of all plastic actually recycled now, one ambitious commitment alone is not enough to solve the packaging challenge.
We all need to rethink the way we produce and consume – to change the way we interact with packaging. We need multiple solutions for this complex problem. It’s as much about changing our approach to the materials we use as it is about changing the recycling system.
We’re acting urgently to:
- Eliminate unnecessary packaging
- Help to develop well-functioning collection, sorting and recycling schemes
- Adopt alternative materials such as paper, bio-based plastic and mono-material (single layer) packaging that’s recyclable
- Introduce new refill / reuse systems
- Label our packaging with recycling information to help consumers dispose of it in the right way
- Encourage our suppliers to increase the availability of recycled food-grade plastics by continuing to expand the proportion of recycled plastics in our packaging.
We know we can’t do it alone
The necessary changes will need collaboration and innovation on a global scale. By working with partners around the world, from materials scientists and packaging specialists to community groups and NGOs, governments and other companies, we want to create a lasting transformation – for people and the planet.
Packaging shouldn’t cost the Earth
That’s why, by 2025, 100% of our packaging will be recyclable or reusable. We want to make sure that none of our packaging ends up in landfill or as litter. So we’re rethinking packaging with new materials and alternatives like reusable packaging and refill options.
We have committed to one-third reduction of virgin plastics by 2025. Also, we’re supporting recycling schemes that serve our communities around the world. We’re speeding ahead with our sustainable packaging transformation – for people and the planet.
Promoting circular packaging
Packaging is critical for ensuring the quality and natural purity of our products. Natural mineral and spring waters are legally required to be packaged at source. They must be safe to drink and suitable for many different situations and locations.
We share the growing public concern about single use and waste plastic ending up in our oceans. That’s why we’re committed to only use materials that are recyclable. But we know we must go further to become fully circular in the way we design and manage packaging.
We’re committed to increasing the use of recycled content in our Buxton bottles to 100% by the end of 2021; and to collecting as many bottles as we produce by 2030.
We’re working with stakeholders and industry partners to set in place effective and efficient recycling systems and infrastructure. We support the UK-wide Deposit Return Scheme. And we’re researching and developing new materials for the future of our industry.
We’re encouraging employees, consumers and stakeholders to recycle more and we’re helping to raise consciousness and understanding of the need for circularity.