The multinationals which produce, use and recycle huge volumes of plastic packaging and who have undertaken to change direction are reducing the consumption of that virgin. But the pace is still slow and the actions are not sufficient. Advances, in fact, are largely driven by the increasing use of recycled content in the packagingwhile there is little effort to eliminate single use And packaging useless. And very little is done on the reuse. Of course, the year of Covid-19 did not help, but the fact remains that the use of virgin material decreased by just over 1% in 2020 compared to the previous year, while the use of packaging rechargeable was less than 2% of all plastics mass on the market. The latest report of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation shows how some of the multinationals that market the most have done in 2020 tons of plastic, among the hundreds of realities that adhere Global Commitment and Plastic Pact network. The initiative, promoted by the foundation, plans to make public the quantities of polymers used, reduce the use of virgin material, eliminate non-recyclable and unnecessary packaging and ensure the marketing of only casings reusable, recyclable or compostable. For the report, they provided their data (in addition to 18 governments), including 130 companies, representing more than a fifth of the global plastic packaging market. Between these Coca TherePepsiCo, NestleDanone, UnileverMars, HenkelL’Oreal, Colgate-Palmolive and the Italian Ferrero.
Virgin plastic drops slightly – If from 1950 to 2018, with an exponential growth, it went from about 2 million tons of virgin plastic used at over 300 million tons, in 2019 and 2020 they registered for the first time reductions 0.6% and 1.2% respectively. “A downward trajectory – is explained in report – reinforced by new commitments to reduce the total use of plastic or virgin plastics in absolute terms by 2025, which this year has become a mandatory requirement to join the Global Commitment“. Indeed, these targets are expected to lead to a total reduction of virgin plastics used by signatories in packaging by around 19% by 2025 (compared to 2018). And that, together with the achievement of targets on recycled content in packaging, would avoid the production of approx 8 million tons of virgin plastic every year (saving 40 million barrels of oil). But we are in the field of intentions.
The focus is on recycled content and not on elimination and reuse – What is concrete is that the reduction of virgin plastics used between 2018 and 2020 was largely driven by the increase in the use of that recycledmainly in packaging in PET stiff, such as that of bottles of water and milk and some bottles. And, in any case, it has gone from 5.2% of recycled content (on the total plastic packaging used by companies) in 2018, to 6.3% in 2019 to reach 8.2% in 2020. Based on the current goalsabout 80% of the expected reduction in virgin content for 2025, will continue to depend precisely on the increase in content recycled. But analysts observe “an alarming low investment” to reduce the use of single use: most of the actions (76%) “involve substitution with other plastic or paper”, while only 24% of the cases are “substantial changes”, such as direct elimination or the transition to models of reuse. In fact, less than 2% of the plastic packaging of the signatories of the Commitment was designed to be reusable in 2020. The share has even decreased, from 1.8% in 2019 to 1.6% in 2020. More than half of all participating companies do not produce packaging in reusable plastic. Even the level of ambition it is low: only 11% of signatories launched more than three reuse pilot projects in 2020, while 56% did not launch any. The result of all this is that 34.7% of the plastic used in packaging that companies put on the market in 2020 is neither reusableneither compostable and neither recyclable. Consequently, the packaging which falls under at least one of these options represents 65.3% (an increase of just 0.5%), but for the vast majority because it is recyclable. And we always talk about what the multinationals who adhere to the initiative, without considering all the companies that operate globally every day in this sector. 80% of the packaging plastic is out of stock and commitments, while demand for it is expected packaging in plastic will double over the next two decades.
How the main producers behave (among those providing the data) – Going to look at the data of the top five in terms of packaging in plastic placed on the market in 2020 (among those that have joined and provided the data) there are Coca-Cola Company (with 2.9 million tons), PepsiCo (2,3), Nestlé (1,2), Danone (717 thousand) and Unilever (690 thousand). They all have different objectives for 2025, more or less ambitious, on the reduction of virgin plastic. What did they do in 2020? The percentage of use of recycled plastics between 2018 and 2019 increased for all five multinationals, especially for Unilever (+ 10%), but we are still far from the targets they have set. A few examples: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Unilever should reach 25% by 2025, but in 2020 they are respectively 11.5, 5 and 11%. Coca-Cola, however, as part of its ‘World Without Waste’ strategy has announced in recent months that it plans to use 50% recycled material in new packaging by 2030. Nestlé is at 4% and must reach 30% by 2025, while Danone is at 10.3% but must reach 50%.
Reuse remains a chimera – The emblematic percentages of plastic packaging that is reusable, recyclable or compostable. Only Coca-Cola comes close to wholeness (remains at 99%) of packaging that meets at least one of these criteria, while the percentage of does not move PepsiCo (to 77%) and that of Danone (to 67%) and that of Unilever (to 52%) increased by just 1.5%, while Nestle it gets worse, losing four percentage points and dropping to 61%. The three options (reusable, compostable, recyclable), however, are very different from each other. Going to check what is the main road indicated by theEuropetherefore reuse, the percentage of reusable plastic packaging in most cases does not move or gets worse, thanks to the pandemic. A setback that of Coca-Cola (which goes from 4% in 2018 to 1.7% in 2020) and which also drags the general data. The figure – the company reported – is partly determined by the impact on sales of the pandemic, but the multinational has announced that it will make 25% of all packaging reusable (or covered by the returnable vacuum system) by 2030. drinks sold in the world in glass or plastic bottles. PepsiCo was and remains at zero while Nestle was and remains at 1%. Unilever data not received, while Danone goes from 3.7 to 4.8%.
Italian companies – In the report also the Ferrerothe Italian company that places the largest quantities of packaging in plastic: 110 thousand tons, of which only 3.5% is made up of recycled plastic (the rest is virgin plastic of fossil origin). Overall, however, 63.9% of plastic packaging is neither reusable, nor recyclable, nor compostable. Looking at the company sheet, it turns out that the remaining 36.1% share is entirely due to plastic recyclable, while both the percentage of compostable plastic and that of reuse remain at 0%. In the last year, the report explains, seven companies have left the signatory group of the Global Commitment because “not willing to meet the mandatory requirements for participation” which include the definition of quantitative objectives in line with the Global Commitment and the commitment to to communicate progress on targets annually. These also include Burberry, Marks and Spencer and Barilla which, as is well known, does not only produce pasta and which in 2018 placed 15 thousand tons of plastic on the market. As reported in dossier by 2020, the company had eliminated “5 million transparent plastic windows from its pasta boxes” and reduced the use of multilayer materials by 29% “replacing them, in 2019, with mono-materials “. By 2021, then, it had set itself the goal of “eliminating 100% of packaging multilayer remaining“.