PepsiCo Europe targets virgin fossil-based plastic elimination in all chip packs by 2030
CEO Silviu Popovici now wants “an appropriate regulatory landscape” to support circular economy
25 Jan 2022 --- PepsiCo Europe plans to eliminate virgin fossil-based plastic in all of its chip bags by 2030. The food and beverage giant proposes using 100% recycled or renewable plastic instead, reducing greenhouse gasses (GHGs) from film packaging by up to 40%.
The transition will apply to brands including Walkers, Doritos, and Lay’s, with consumer trials rolling out in European markets in 2022, starting with renewable plastic in a Lay’s range in France in the first half of the year. The renewable content will come from the by-products of plants, such as used cooking oil or waste from paper pulp.
Later in the year, a Walkers range using recycled packs will be trialed in the UK. The recycled content will be derived from previously used plastic.
“We are hoping to use these trials to understand how the packaging performs at scale in the market and also the reaction from our consumers and customers,” Archana Jagannathan, PepsiCo Europe’s senior director for sustainable packaging, tells PackagingInsights. “This will be critical as we build the roadmap to deliver on our 2030 ambition.”
PepsiCo says it will help build a circular economy for flexible packaging in Europe through design, infrastructure and by giving packaging materials a new life, as part of its wider pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) ambition.
“Flexible packaging recycling should be the norm across Europe,” argues Silviu Popovici, PepsiCo Europe’s CEO. “We see a future where our bags will be free of virgin fossil-based plastic. They will be part of a thriving circular economy where flexible packaging is valued and can be recycled as a new packet.”
“We’re investing with our partners to build technological capacity to do that. We now need an appropriate regulatory landscape in place so that packaging never becomes waste,” he adds.
Reducing climate impact
PepsiCo uses flexible plastic for its snack packaging – the soft wrapping used to make its chip bags – because it is lightweight compared to alternative packaging and therefore has a lower carbon footprint.
Flexible plastic is also highly effective at keeping food fresh, thereby reducing food waste and associated GHGs. However, PepsiCo says it recognizes that change is needed to reduce the amount of virgin fossil-based plastic used and drive circularity in flexible packaging.
PepsiCo Europe says it will focus its work on three strategic pillars: “The right design, the right infrastructure and the right new life for flexible packaging.”
Beyond the switch to renewable and recycled content, PepsiCo has developed its “Making Bags Better” program, focusing on a series of investments and innovations to ensure more flexible plastics will be recycled and reused in Europe.
Supporting recycling rates
PepsiCo Europe is moving all its bags to materials that make them easier to recycle, leveraging innovative design technology to create a simpler bag structure. The new bag designs contain greater proportions of recyclable plastics like polypropylene, commonly referred to as “mono-materials.”
These materials meet the design for recycling guidelines developed by the Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging, which has been agreed by a range of stakeholders active in the flexible packaging value chain.
“We are building a future where flexible packaging is part of the circular economy,” explains Gerald Rebitzer, sustainability director at Amcor, PepsiCo’s flexible packaging partner in Europe. “Together with PepsiCo, we enhanced the material technologies on PepsiCo’s new chip packet to make it easier to recycle.”
“And, we are beginning to integrate renewable and recycled content into PepsiCo’s packaging. To meet the demands of our clients like PepsiCo, we encourage more partners upstream to invest in the supply chains of these new materials.”
PepsiCo has also been reducing unnecessary packaging across its individual bags and multipacks as part of its commitment to a 50% reduction in virgin plastic per serving by 2030. Progress is being made toward this goal, including in markets such as the UK, where on some parts of the range, PepsiCo has reduced its multipack outer by up to 30% using innovative technology in its manufacturing facilities.
Investing in infrastructure
PepsiCo says it is committed to investing in infrastructure to give flexible packaging “the chance of a second life” and advocating for policy changes “that will make that possible.” This commitment includes collaborating on and financing the development of effective waste collection systems in Europe and investing in schemes such as the Flexible Plastics Fund in the UK and Reflex in Poland.
As part of this approach, PepsiCo Europe is advocating to set ambitious recycling targets for flexible packaging, including accelerating the landfill ban and swiftly adopting EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) fees that drive collection, sorting and actual recycling of flexible film.
The multinational is also investing in technology to scale further and improve sorting and recycling, trialing “smart” packaging on several brands in 2022 in Germany and France as part of the Holy Grail 2.0 Digital Watermarks initiative. PepsiCo is working with partners in the recycling industry, such as Borealis and Tomra, to advance recycling technologies for flexible packaging.
Driving recyclate demand
PepsiCo also indicates it will focus on building demand for recycled content made from flexible packaging to support its use more widely. Alongside the company’s planned trials of recycled plastic this year, the company is also “exploring new life possibilities for its snack bags.”
While the goal for PepsiCo is bag-to-bag circularity, which is suitable for food packaging, it is clear that collection, advanced sortation, and flexible film recycling to produce valuable and durable products is an important first step toward a circular future for flexible packaging, the company illustrates.
For this reason, PepsiCo is also exploring the conversion of packets into plastic pellets to be remade into items such as floor posts and as parts within the automotive industry. However, the beverage industry recently voiced concerns about soaring recycled plastic prices as rival industries dip into their supply.
“Today, the supply of recycled and renewable materials for flexibles is limited,” accepts Jagannathan. “The regulatory environment is very dynamic, and we need more clarity on policy and recognized technologies. If a policy and waste infrastructure similar to beverage bottle packaging accelerates for flexibles, we will speed up our plans and go even faster to meet our commitments.”
“The key challenge we face is the low supply of renewable or recycled plastic. This announcement is a signal to show there is demand from companies like PepsiCo for this material and we hope this will provide suppliers with the confidence to set up investment to increase the supply.”
PepsiCo previously pledged to transition the Pepsi brand to 100% recycled PET bottles in 11 European markets by 2022 and continue investing in building a reusable model, including through SodaStream, which aims to avoid an estimated 200 billion plastic bottles by 2030.
Last week, PepsiCo and over 70 other financial institutions and businesses released a statement calling for a legally-binding global treaty on plastics pollution ahead of the UN Environment Assembly 5.2 in Nairobi, Kenya, this year.
By Joshua Poole
This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, PackagingInsights.
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