ZURICH (REUTERS) - Nestle wants to make all of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, the Swiss food giant said on Tuesday (April 10), becoming the latest food company to vow to reduce plastic waste.
European governments have stepped up efforts to reduce plastic waste littering land and sea, and companies across the food supply chain are following suit. UK supermarket chain Waitrose pledged on Tuesday to ban disposable coffee cups from its shops by this autumn.
"Plastic waste is one of the biggest sustainability issues the world is facing today. Tackling it requires a collective approach," Nestle Chief Executive Mark Schneider said in a statement.
The world's biggest packaged food company, which owns more than 2,000 brands worldwide from chocolate snacks like KitKat and Smarties to Perrier bottled water, said it would focus on eliminating non-recyclable plastics, encourage the use of plastics that allow better recycling rates and eliminate or change complex combinations of packaging materials.
"We are working on changing the colours used for our plastic packaging. Lighter colours are easier to recycle," Nestle sustainability expert Duncan Pollard told reporters on a call.
Nestle rival Unilever said last week it had struck a partnership to pioneer a new technology which converts PET (polyethylene terephthalate) waste back into virgin-grade material for use in food packaging.
The company already committed last year to making all of its plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
Waitrose, an upmarket grocer that treats loyal shoppers with free tea or coffee at its stores, said it will stop using disposable cups - which are very hard to recycle - this year. Customers will continue to get their free coffee fix if they bring their own reusable cup, the company said in a statement.
"We believe removing all takeaway disposable cups is the right thing to do for our business and are confident the majority of customers will support the environmental benefits," Tor Harris, the supermarket's head of sustainability, said.
The shift by some of the biggest high-street names answers widespread consumer disquiet over pollution, accelerated after popular British naturalist David Attenborough urged consumers to stop using plastic bottles in his "Blue Planet II" TV series.
In January, privately-owned Iceland pledged to eliminate plastic packaging from its own-brand products by the end of 2023 - a first by a major British grocer.
KPMG said it would phase out the use of plastic water cups and cutlery at its 22 offices around Britain by the end of the year, after a successful trial in Manchester where employees were given metal water bottles to use instead.
The global accounting firm said it uses about 3 million plastic cups every year, costing 60,000 pounds (US$85,000).
"Even with supplying each of our 15,000 employees with a free metal water bottle, the scheme is projected to pay for itself within 18 months," KPMG's environment manager Sarah Lindsay said in a statement.
United Nations figures show 8 million tonnes of plastic - bottles, packaging and other waste - enter the ocean each year, degrading precious habitats, killing marine life and entering the human food chain.
Scientists have urged tougher restrictions on plastic waste. In December, almost 200 nations agreed to limit plastic pollution of the oceans, warning it could outweigh fish by 2030.
Coffee chain Starbucks is doing its bit by offering customers a discount on their drink if they bring in their own tumbler or cup.
The British government announced plans last month to introduce a deposit return scheme for single-use drink containers and EU regulators have said they want to increase recycling of plastic, after China banned imports of "foreign garbage" from the start of 2018.