The world’s largest food company Nestlé announced on Thursday that it will invest up to 2 billion Swiss francs ($2.1 billion or €1.9 billion) to tackle plastic waste. The water and chocolate Swiss giant aims at leading the shift from virgin plastics to sustainable packaging solutions, while sustaining the development of recycling technologies.
The multinational will reduce its use of virgin plastics by one third by 2025, while working with others to advance the circular economy and clean up plastic waste from oceans, lakes and rivers. A full list of partners is still to identify, a spokesman told Forbes.com.
“No plastic should end up in landfill or as litter,” said Mark Schneider, CEO of Nestlé. “Making recycled plastics safe for food is an enormous challenge for our industry. That is why in addition to minimizing plastics use and collecting waste, we want to close the loop and make more plastics infinitely recyclable. We are taking bold steps to create a wider market for food-grade recycled plastics and boost innovation in the packaging industry. We welcome others to join us on this journey.”
As part of the company’s goal to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, last year Nestlé committed to make 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.
A recent audit conducted by Break Free From Plastic, however, found out that Nestlé was the No. 2 brand for plastic pollution for two years in a row.
Now the company plan to source up to 2 million metric tons of food-grade recycled plastics and allocate over 1.5 billion Swiss francs ($1.6 billion or €1.4 billion) to pay a premium for these materials between now and 2025.
They will also launch a sustainable packaging venture fund of 250 million Swiss francs ($260 million or €230 million) to invest in start-up companies that focus on areas such as packaging innovation, refill systems and recycling solutions.
“It’s an interesting play from Nestlé,” commented Delphine Lévi Alvarès, European coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement and Coordinator of the Rethink Plastic alliance. “Nevertheless, it is critical for them to start by revealing just how much virgin plastic they actually use today, and what type of polymers and additives are used for their packaging, along with clarity on where their efforts are really going to go. They must urgently channel investment into ending the reliance on single-use packaging, and focusing on toxic-free reusable products and systems.”
“In addition, to ensure consumer safety and build trust in recycled content, Nestlé should immediately phase-out hazardous chemicals, including those identified as endocrine disruptors, from their products at the design stage. We won’t recycle our way out of plastic pollution, so we call on Nestlé to stay away from false solutions, and truly commit to prevent and reuse.”
Similarly, the senior campaigner at Greenpeace Switzerland Matthias Wüthrich said: “It is encouraging that Nestlé has finally committed to reducing its reliance on virgin plastic and recognizes that its dependence on fossil fuel-derived plastic is contributing to climate change. Reducing single-use plastic should not mean that Nestlé turns to false solutions such as recycled content and material substitution. If Nestlé wants to stop polluting the world, it needs to end its reliance on plastic.”
“Nestlé must prioritize reuse and eliminate single-use packaging altogether instead of doubling down on the recycling myth. Nestlé has an opportunity to show real leadership and we encourage the company to focus its efforts towards the elimination of all throwaway packaging.”
The company promised it will provide regular updates, as per its commitment to increase transparency.