ZURICH (Reuters) - Nestle wants to make all of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, the Swiss food giant said on Tuesday, becoming the latest food company to vow to reduce plastic waste.
Environmentalists criticised the plan as lacking substance.
European governments have stepped up efforts to reduce plastic waste littering land and sea, and companies across the food supply chain are following suit. UK supermarket chain Waitrose [JLPLC.UL] pledged on Tuesday to ban disposable coffee cups from its shops by this autumn.
“Plastic waste is one of the biggest sustainability issues the world is facing today. Tackling it requires a collective approach,” Nestle Chief Executive Mark Schneider said in a statement.
The world’s biggest packaged food company said it would focus on eliminating non-recyclable plastics, encourage the use of plastics that allow better recycling rates and eliminate or change complex combinations of packaging materials.
“We are working on changing the colours used for our plastic packaging. Lighter colours are easier to recycle,” Nestle sustainability expert Duncan Pollard told reporters on a call.
Environmental group Greenpeace said Nestle had missed giving clear quantitative targets on the reduction of plastic waste, calling the announcement “greenwashing”.
“The company is one of the parties responsible for the serious plastic crisis in the oceans,” Greenpeace Switzerland spokesman Yves Zenger said in a statement, adding Nestle should ultimately completely renounce single-use plastic packaging.
Nestle’s Pollard said on the call the recycling of single-use plastics depended on there being a recycling infrastructure in place and particularly countries in South-East Asia, such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, had to make improvements in this area.
Nestle rival Unilever said last week it had struck a partnership to pioneer a new technology which converts PET (polyethylene terephthalate) waste back into virgin-grade material for use in food packaging. The company already committed last year to making all of its plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
Coffee chain Starbucks is doing its bit by offering customers a discount on their drink if they bring in their own tumbler or cup.
The British government announced plans last month to introduce a deposit return scheme for single-use drink containers and EU regulators have said they want to increase recycling of plastic, after China banned imports of “foreign garbage” from the start of 2018.
Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz and Angelika Gruber; Editing by Alexandra Hudson