National Harbor, Md. — As one of the most well-known consumer products companies in the world, Nestlé SA is working to change the perception of the packaging, including plastics, that protects and delivers its products.
"Unfortunately, a lot of times, consumers perceive the package that they are holding as waste. So we are transitioning and changing the mindset of thinking of that packaging as going from waste to going to a resource," said Nicole Camilleri, packaging sustainability manager for Nestlé USA.
"We want that package to be circular and protect that resource similar to how we protect water or our forests," she said at the recent Plastics Recycling Conference in National Harbor.
Nestlé has at least one product in 97 percent of consumer homes, so it has the potential to create widespread change, she said.
"Because packaging plays such a significant role here, Nestlé's vision truly is that none of our packaging, including plastics, ends up in landfill or as litter. Packaging is the first moment that a consumer has with our product when they see it on a store shelf and they pick it up and feel our packaging," Camilleri said. "It's also the last moment they have with our product. Once they are done consuming our product, they are holding the package itself."
To help elevate the importance of rescuing used packaging from disposal, Nestlé has committed to making 100 percent of its packaging either recyclable or reusable by 2025, she said. The company also has committed to reduce the use of virgin plastic by one-third by 2025, including business growth.
In early 2020, the company committed to investing up to 2 billion Swiss francs ($2.08 billion) to shift from virgin plastics to food-grade recycled plastics. Nestlé, at the time, pledged to source up to 2 million metric tons of food-grade recycled plastics and allocated money to pay a premium for those materials through 2025.
"So we have a lot of resources across our entire company working on these really important ambitions. We have structured ourselves into three different pillars. First and foremost, to develop the packaging of the future, this is where our R&D community, our technical, manufacturing, the procurement teams come together to ensure that every package we put out in the market is designed appropriately for circularity," Camilleri said.
"Secondly, to help shape a waste-free future. This is really critical, and this is where our advocacy work and our coalition work comes in. So that we are ensuring that every package we put out to the market has the appropriate infrastructure so we have access, we have collection, sortation and reprocessing as well as end markets," she said.
"And, finally, driving new behavior and understanding with our consumers," Camilleri told the crowd, including education and empowerment to recycle. "Because at the end of the day, it's the consumers who makes the choice to put the packaging into the recycling bin.
"For me, all three of these things need to work in harmony. Because if one of them is broken, that chain in circularity is also broken," Camilleri said.