How Businesses Are Cutting Out Plastic

Published on:
by Eric Burdon
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Last December, PepsiCo announced a new goal in plastic waste, that they would double the reusable or refillable packaging of their products from 10% to 20% by 2030. The shift in behaviour and the nature of the goal is in character with the brand. PepsiCo, along with Nestlé and COP27’s sponsor Coca-Cola, are the world’s top polluters in plastics.

And similar to Coca-Cola’s idea of being the sponsor of an event designed to reduce waste, PepsiCo’s goal is nice on the surface, but conservative in where the target is set. With roughly seven years to hit that goal, PepsiCo could meet it with little effort.

Even so, many companies that are using plastic are taking creative and innovative ways to reduce plastic waste. And through these efforts, this could provide you with new and creative ways to reduce plastic on an individual business level as well.

Using Better Tech To Avoid Extra Bottles

In 2018, PepsiCo acquired SodaStream for just over $3.2 billion. Of course, the idea of having your own sparkling water machine at home or at work is great, especially in the case where SodaStream provides its own unique bottles to reduce waste.

PepsiCo plans to expand that side of its business through SodaStream Professional - an opportunity to further integrate into homes while also appealing to businesses. Overall, SodaStream is helping individuals avoid single-use plastic bottles, but they’ve also made a vow to help the world avoid using 78 billion bottles by 2025.

While this is a nice sentiment, it is, however, undercut by the fact many other companies enable this in some fashion. HydrateSpark, creator of glowing plastic refillable water bottles, is one of many types of businesses that allow people to avoid single-use plastic bottles.

Beyond this, PepsiCo launched pep+ last year, which outlines various ESG initiatives across agriculture, climate, water and packaging sustainability, and consumer health. This provides a road map that PepsiCo is making, showing that they are sticking to their target of looking to double reusable and refillable packaging.

In addition to avoiding extra bottles, other initiatives and considerations include:

  • Partnering with bottlers to offer glass or refillable plastic bottles.

  • Reusable cups for fountain drinks.

  • Expanding powders and concentrates to reduce agricultural waste.

Opting For Clearer Bottles

In the case of Coca-Cola, one of their more recent efforts has been changing some of the bottles from green to clear. In celebration, Coca-Cola launched Recycled Records as the switch of Sprite, Fresca and Seagram bottles from green to clear.

This decision came from findings that green plastic is more commonly turned into single-use items rather than being recycled again. To incentivise the bottles to be recycled more often, the clearer bottle option was taken.

As great as a move as that may be, Coca-Cola's efforts are about as ambitious as PepsiCo’s plan to double reusable packaging within this decade. It’s nice, but there needs to be a much more serious, strategic and systematic effort put in place.

As things stand now, a lot of plastic thrown into recycling is hardly used. About a tenth of it in fact. And the chances of that same plastic being recycled twice is only 1%. For businesses, it’s cheaper to simply make new plastic than to go back and reuse older plastic.

What is more ambitious is the fact Coca-Cola does want to have 100% recyclable packaging by 2025. And in that regard, with the company’s resources, that is highly doable.

Attacking The Landfills

A more interesting effort is tackling the source of plastic waste itself - landfills. As mentioned above, a lot of the plastics that get recycled are often tossed out into landfills regardless. Tupperware Brands Corporation has taken some initiative in tackling this issue.

They partnered with the National Park Foundation and have announced a multi-year partnership in reducing waste across the National Park System. Their overall goal is to reduce food and single-use plastic waste through several approaches.

Some of it is through recycling and composting, along with installing water bottle refill stations. However, the most notable effort is to work on diverting plastic bottles from landfills in the first place. Some of the other projects will help in mitigating that, but one of the other approaches comes down to educating people about plastic waste and how to properly dispose of it. Attacking the landfills means figuring out how to fundamentally educate people how to modify their habits. 

We Can Do Better

As much as these companies are making slow and gradual changes, it’s still important for all of us to be looking at our plastic usage and to familiarise ourselves with that to begin with. Not just in bottles, but containers as well. Accepting that we create so much plastic waste to begin with and, in a sense, becoming comfortable with the fact, is critical.

Plastic accounts for an incredible amount of waste and greenhouse gas. Tackling this issue with higher commitment than what is seen from beverage companies means we’ll stand a better chance of normalising our relationship with it and actively seeking solutions to use it less, reuse where possible, and recycle correctly.

Follow Company ESG Profiles to keep track of ESG Ratings and performance.

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