Manufacturers are moving away from plastic packaging to paper materials 

Industry, Trade and Investment

 

* Find out why Nestle, Coca-Cola, Mondelez, and P&G are leading the pack  

 

By Franklin Alli

IN  the beginning, Returnable Glass Bottles (RGB) were used for many years by manufacturers to package their products.

But glass is energy-intensive to produce, heavy to transport, and requires extensive packaging to prevent breakage.

Additionally, silica sand used to make glass is in short supply, making recycled glass important despite the energy required to melt the glass.

Decades later, bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) , the chemical name for polyester, were introduced, to gradually replace glass.

PET is a clear, strong, and lightweight plastic that is widely used for packaging foods and beverages, especially convenience-sized soft drinks, juices and water. Virtually all single-serving and 2-liter bottles of carbonated soft drinks and water sold around the world are made from PET.

Recall also that in addition to packaging in PET bottles, manufacturers also embraces canning, especially, beer carbonated drinks and malts.

However, investigation by  Industrial Digest, shows that due to advancement in technology, in the past two years, manufacturers are again, shifting focus on packaging their products in paper bottles and pouches.

Already, global players like Nestle, Coca – Cola, Mondelez International including Procter & Gamble, are leading the pack in adopting environmentally friendly technology.

They said that they are doing this all in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste, and thus save the planet.

It’s no secret that the planet is filled with plastic waste, including consumer products like plastic bottles — ones quickly used, then discarded, often making their way into landfills, lakes, and the ocean.

In Nigeria, the food and beverage manufacturers under the umbrella of Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance (FBRA) are putting their resources together to tackle the problem of plastic waste pollution; even though,  the Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said “Although we have been hearing about recycling in Nigeria, we have not seen any concrete actions or impacts, as our environment is still littered with plastic wastes.”

“So, I am happy you identified that problem of plastic pollution on your own and have committed yourself to helping us to solve the problem of your own volition.

“Now that we have seen organisations and companies that are ready to partner with us as a parliament, we will be glad to build formidable synergy with you and the Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance to preserve our environment.

“In doing this, I believe we need to bring all the stakeholders together by 2021 to come up with necessary proposals, which we can translate into legislations, borrowing a leaf from what other countries are doing”.

The Managing Director of the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC), Mr. Mathieu Seguin, who is also the Chairman of FBRA, said that
NBC, on its part, had plans to collect and recycle 100 percent of all its packaging materials by 2030, adding that the Coca-Cola system was already setting up Recycling Banks in Abuja and Lagos to bring recycling closer to the communities and to economically empower over 2,000 women across the value chain.

 

” It’s no secret that the planet is filled with plastic waste, including consumer products like plastic bottles — ones quickly used, then discarded, often making their way into landfills, lakes, and the ocean.”

On the global level,  the Ocean Conservancy reported  that more than 20.8 million tons of trash were collected from the beaches in 116 countries in 2019. That’s 32.5 million items picked up in one day.

In the report, a compendium of collected items, tabulated by country and type, trash was retrieved from beaches on every continent except Antarctica. (We depend on plastic, but now we’re drowning in it)

The other items in the top ten relate to food and drink, and most of those are not recyclable. The list includes bottles and caps, straws and stirrers, cups, lids, take-away containers, and plastic bags. While bottles are highly recyclable, lightweight plastic packaging is often rejected by recycling operations because it clogs machinery.

“Food wrappers taking over as the number one item merely underscores the unsustainable production of single-use, disposable food and beverage packaging,” he says. Complicating matters, much of food packaging either fails to get recycled by consumers or can’t be recycled at all—a condition that Mallos says emphasizes the “gross inadequacies” of managing plastic waste in most communities around the world.

Plastic Alternative
Recently, Nestlé announced that its popular Smarties brand is now using recyclable paper packaging for its confectionery products worldwide.
This represents a transition of 90% of the Smarties range, as 10% was previously already packed in recyclable paper packaging. Smarties is the first global confectionery brand to switch to recyclable paper packaging, removing approximately 250 million plastic packs sold globally every year.

* Source: Nestle 

Alexander von Maillot, Global Head of Confectionery at Nestlé, said: “Shifting Smarties packaging to recyclable paper is one of our key sustainable packaging initiatives in the confectionery category. It is a further step in realizing Nestlé’s ambition to make all of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025 and to reduce its use of virgin plastics by one third in the same period.”

Louise Barrett, Head of the Nestlé Confectionery Product Technology Centre in York, said: “Developing safe and convenient paper-based solutions for Smarties has required the pioneering of new materials and testing by Nestlé packaging experts at our R&D Center for confectionery in York, UK and the Swiss-based Institute of Packaging Sciences. We adapted our existing manufacturing lines to allow for the careful handling that is required for paper, while also ensuring recyclability across all new formats.”

Nestlé invested significantly to upgrade its factories globally, including in Hamburg, Germany, one of the company’s largest factories for confectionery production.

   

Early this week, Coca-Cola Company announced that it is testing a more sustainable paper bottle in Hungary, with limited online sales of the product starting this summer.

SlashGear.com reported that the company’s Brussels-based research and development team is working with Danish startup The Paper Bottle Company on this project, with an ultimate goal for bottles that ‘can be recycled as paper.’

It said that Coca-Cola is looking into fully recyclable bottles that may one day replace ordinary plastic bottles.
The company plans a run of 2,000 bottles of AdeZ, a beverage, which will be sold online through the website Kifli.hu.
The Paper Bottle Company (Paboco) developed the technology to make this bottle.

 

Source: Coca-Cola 

 

The plastic alternative features a ‘bio-based material’ as the external carton-like barrier, one made using sustainably-sourced wood. The bottle includes a recyclable plastic lining that holds the beverage, as well as a plastic cap.

Coca-Cola explained that the paper exterior is designed to resist oxygen, CO2, and liquids, meaning it could be used with other consumer products like makeup.

The pilot launch of a beverage in these bottles will give Coca-Cola a chance to see how they hold up in a real-world environment and how consumers respond to the bottle change. Coca-Cola Europe’s Daniela Zahariea said:

Mondelez International, also disclosed that across the globe, its team is working hard to simplify our packaging design to reduce our environmental impact.

” Currently, over 75% of our packaging is paper-based, glass or metal– all of which are currently recycled or recyclable. The other portion of our packaging is mostly made up of flexible plastic films used to preserve foods and prevent food waste.

” By 2025, 100% of our packaging around the globe will be recyclable. In addition to the great impact this has on the environment, using less packaging provides an economic benefit by reducing material, transportation and disposal costs.”

Procter & Gamble, is another company that is getting away from plastic packaging .

” Recycling, which saves more than 700 million tonnes in CO2 emissions every year, is one area in which P&G believes packaging innovation has the power to make that difference.

As part of a set of sustainability goals, Ambition 2030, the multinational aims to achieve 100% recyclable or reusable packaging, while halving its use of virgin petroleum plastic in packaging – all by 2030,” said the company.

Anitra Marsh, Associate Director of Global Sustainability and Brand Communications at P&G Beauty, said that since
May 2020, its Beauty products – both Old Spice and Secret brand deodorants have been introduced in all-paper, plastic-free, tube packaging, and are available in 500 Walmart stores in the U.S.

“This paper tube uses 90 percent recycled content and is certified by the FSC. The paperboard tube does not contain wax, plastics, BPA, or PFA.

The paperboard has an interior coating that is made from an FDA-approved fluorochemical and corn-derived starch to make the paperboard grease-proof and water-proof. New paper fibers are added to the post-consumer recycled paperboard pulp to strengthen the base material.”

By 2030, P&G Beauty’s brands have committed to using 100 percent recyclable or reusable packaging while reducing the use of virgin petroleum plastic by 50 percent. By 2025, Walmart says it will send zero waste to landfills for its operations in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Japan.

Freddy Bharucha, Vice President of Personal Care, P&G Beauty, said, “We co-designed this package with consumers who are interested in cutting back on plastic waste. The majority of Gen Z consumers have high expectations for environmentally friendly products.

“If we convert just 10 percent of our current deodorant packages to recycled paper or another recyclable material, it could eliminate up to 1.5 million pounds of plastic waste annually,” notes Marsh. “This is just one example of how we are trying to make a difference and build a more sustainable future.”

Arguments Against Paper Bottles 

In an article, Paper Bottles Are Not a Sustainable Alternative to Plastic Bottles, published in Plastic Today, the writer, Axel Barrett — founder of UK-based Bioplastics News , argued that although, It’s interesting to see all these brand owners struggle to get away from plastic — via the “paper” bottle, yet, try as they might, they just can’t seem to leave plastic behind.

Last summer, when paper bottle announcements were trending, I wrote a rather long blog about the various paper bottles that were coming to market. It seemed that major brand owners were convinced that paper bottles would be the escape route from plastics. However, one thing that paper bottles and other fiberboard containers require in order to hold in their contents is a plastic liner. Brand owners don’t like to talk about that, so I usually don’t get a response when I inquire about plastic liners for paper or fiberboard bottles and containers.

He said that he went through an exercise of reviewing all the paper bottles that have been developed since 2011 to convince himself that paper really could be a solution for a plastic-free container or bottle.

In “The Paper-Bottle Fairy Tale,” published on Feb. 15, 2021, Barrett shared his conclusion that “PET bottles are the only existing example of bottle-to-bottle mechanical recycling at industrial scale. A PET bottle can be recycled into a new 100% PET bottle. Why would you want to replace this?”

Barrett wrote that he used to think that paper was a sustainable material, but after looking into it, he’s “not so sure anymore.” One thing Barrett is adamant about is that CPGs should only use recycled and recyclable resources.
“No trees should be cut down for the paper bottle industry. Not a single one,” stated Barrett emphatically.

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