PepsiCo targets 100% recycled plastic bottles in Europe

Food and beverage giant PepsiCo has set a new goal to reach 100% recycled content in plastic Pepsi bottles sold in its nine biggest European markets by 2022.

PepsiCo estimates the move will prevent 70,000 tonnes of virgin plastic use annually

PepsiCo estimates the move will prevent 70,000 tonnes of virgin plastic use annually

The company will source 100% post-consumer recycled PET (rPET) to house its range of Pepsi drinks. It said in a statement that technological innovations in the plastics recycling space in recent years have led to greater availability of recycled materials – and that these materials are now higher-quality.

PepsiCo had already set a target to include 25% recycled content across its global portfolio of plastic packaging, deadlined for 2025. The firm said it has set a stricter target on Pepsi bottles in Europe as recycling collection infrastructure is more advanced than in some other markets, including the US, making for greater availability of recycled content.

Germany, Poland, Romania, Greece and Spain will switch to 100% rPET in 2021, while France, Great Britain, Belgium and Luxembourg achieve the milestone in 2022. In most of these markets, packaging for brands beyond Pepsi will also be transitioned. PepsiCo notably owns 7Up, Mountain Dew, Lipton Ice Tea and Mirinda.

PepsiCo estimates that the move will mitigate the use of 70,000 tonnes of virgin fossil-based plastic annually once the transition is complete. Life-cycle analyses have also shown the 100% recycled content bottles to have lower carbon footprints.

“Collaboration between all stakeholders across the EU is central to this issue [of plastic waste],” PepsiCo Europe’s chief executive Silviu Popovici said.

“We need to design packaging to be recyclable, reduce the amount of packaging we use, and make it easy for consumers to recycle. Working with policymakers and waste management systems, we need to collect more bottles so that plastic needs never become waste.  Everyone can and should play a part in developing a circular economy for plastic.”

PepsiCo recently announced that it had allocated $200m from its first green bond to initiatives to improve the sourcing of recycled PET across North America.

Competitor brands which have already debuted 100% recycled bottles include Nestle-owned Buxton and Lucozade Ribena Suntory.

(Re)fill your boots

To Popovici’s point on reducing plastic, PepsiCo’s latest announcement does include an ambition to “continue progress towards growing reuse and refill systems such as SodaStream”. Indeed, PepsiCo was one of the early partners for TerraCycle’s Loop platform.

However, it stops short of setting a time-bound numerical target on reuse and refill. Recent research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that most businesses with plastics targets have been slower to adopt refill than to source recycled content, improve recyclability and make packaging lighter. Just 2% of the products sold by the world's biggest consumer goods firms this year came in reusable packaging, according to the organisation’s annual progress report on the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.

Sarah George



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