Last year, Nestlé made clear its commitment to dramatically reducing waste within the company’s global operations. More specifically, Nestlé is targeting the growing problem of plastic waste and its impact on the planet.
Nestlé joined other global companies in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s efforts to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in our oceans, wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems. According to one MacArthur Foundation report, we eventually could have more plastics (by weight) than fish in Earth’s oceans by 2050, unless we change our current manufacturing, waste, and recycling habits.
Last year, Nestlé said the company was aiming to make all of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, and CEO Mark Schneider has been vocal in his commitment to reducing plastic waste.
Operations Impact of Nestlé’s Sustainability Goals
Nestlé has laid out specific plans to achieve its 2025 goal. In 2019, company efforts began on the manufacturing side, using paper packaging to replace the plastic materials used for Nestlé's top-selling products, Nesquik, YES! snack bars, and Smarties candies. The company will also eliminate plastic straws from its products, replacing them with innovative alternative materials.
Nestlé Waters will also reduce plastic waste impact by increasing the percentage of recycled PET content in bottles to 35% by 2025. For U.S. production, the division will increase PET to 50% for the popular Poland Spring brand water. European brands Acqua Panna, Buxton, Henniez, and Levissima are expected to reach 50% by 2025, as well.
Nestlé is also focusing on reducing the use of plastic throughout the business as a whole. For instance, Nestlé will no longer use plastic straws or other single-use plastics within the company’s 4,200 facilities.
Employees will participate on a global scale by volunteering on World Ocean Day, celebrated June 8, 2019, helping to clean up oceans and lakes, including the shores of Lake Geneva outside of the division’s headquarters in Switzerland.
So how will all of this affect the bottom line? Magdi Batato, Nestlé's global head of operations, indicated that the company is still evaluating the overall cost impact. “Some of those alternative solutions are even cheaper, some of them are cost neutral, and indeed some of them are more expensive,” he explained.
Nestlé's Scientific Research into Greater Sustainability
Nestlé recognizes the need to go one step further than simply reducing waste – the company must also prevent it. The food and drink giant has said it will achieve this goal by investing in research and partnerships that allow for the creation of alternative packaging products.
For example, Nestlé is partnering with U.S.-based Danimer Scientific to develop biodegradable, recyclable bottles for Nestlé's water business, which could prevent plastic waste from entering our oceans in the first place. In the realm of food-grade packing materials, Nestlé is working with PureCycle Technologies to recycle the commonly used polypropylene into a resin.
These two partnerships may signal the start of a more extensive long-term commitment. In December, Nestlé established the Institute of Packaging Sciences, which will focus on evaluating and developing sustainable packaging materials and solutions that will reduce waste. The technologies that the Institute develops will be used to benefit both Nestlé’s internal operation and its global partnerships.
Looking Ahead: Improving Sustainability in 2025
The year 2025 is important not only for Nestlé but also for the nearly 300 global corporations that have made a commitment to reduce waste and minimize their overall environmental footprint.
Other companies, such as Walmart Canada, KFC, and PepsiCo, have also outlined goals for reducing the amount of plastic waste produced and lessening the environmental impact of their processes and operations.
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