AMSTERDAM — Swiss giant Nestlé SA reduced the weight of its packaging by 601,147 tons over the 1991-2010 period. Out of this total saving, 34 percent was plastics and laminates.
Philippe Roulet, head of global packaging materials and training, said the use of plastics and laminates has gone down partly because of changes to water bottles. He was speaking at the Renewable Plastics conference in Amsterdam this week.
The bottle for Ozarka, a bottled water brand sold in the US, is now made with only 9.3g of resin, he said, showing a slide which demonstrated that bottles for carbonated drinks were sometimes made with more than 20g of materials.
Roulet says use of materials is not the only thing to consider in terms of making the food supply chain more sustainable.
He said Nestlé has a holistic approach. To achieve this, it uses the packaging eco-design tool PIQET (Packaging Impact Quick Evaluation Tool). PIQET looks at all areas of the supply chain, comparing the environmental impact of all areas of production.
Many bio-materials look great on paper but have limited applications. For example, PLA is a poor moisture barrier and PE made from sugar cane has a limited availability.
But he stressed that Nestlé is a “material neutral” company.
“The important question is what is sustainable packaging? Is it the lightest? Biodegradable? There are lots of different answers but real answer is ‘it depends', said Roulet. “We need to remember that the first goal of packaging is to prevent food waste.”
However, the company has had several successes in the bioplastics area, including bio HDPE bottle caps in Brazil. And in Europe, the company is making bottles for its very successful Vittel brand using 30 percent plant matter.