- Mondelez International announced it will switch to all recyclable packaging by 2025. The maker of Oreos, Tang, Ritz and other brands said it will partner with groups to encourage packaging to be collected and recycled in global markets.
- In order to reach this goal, the company will provide packaging manufacturers with design guidelines and a list of materials to use or avoid, according to Food Business News. In addition, paper packaging will be sustainably sourced by 2020 and Mondelez will provide recycling information to consumers by 2025.
- The company also plans to develop a waste-management infrastructure to reduce waste and improve recycling rates. Rob Hargrove, executive vice president of research, development, quality and innovation, said in a release the company needs to do its part because "plastic waste and its impact on the planet is a broad, systemic issue that our consumers care deeply about, and which requires a holistic response."
Although this announcement from Mondelez is an ambitious sustainability initiative, the CPG maker said it has already made its packaging more environmentally friendly. The company said most of its packaging is currently recyclable, since about 75% of it is glass, paper or metal, and about 70% of the paper-based packaging comes from recycled sources. Oreo packages in the U.S. were also made 23% thinner, reducing about 1.5 million kilograms of cartons used annually. These efforts could indicate that the brand is on track to follow through with its lofty goals.
Mondelez isn't alone in announcing sustainability goals. Given the commitments being made by a growing number of food and beverage companies, as well as by governments, 2025 is shaping up to be a year of eco-friendly initiatives. Nestlé, McDonald's and soft drink companies in Europe all announced plans to dramatically limit their plastic waste. Australia's government is looking to have all packaging in use be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. The European Union also announced its own plastic waste reduction strategy earlier this year, according to FoodBev. Coca-Cola has also said it plans to collect and recycle all of its global packaging by 2030.
While some of Mondelez' recycling goals will be relatively easy to reach, particularly when it comes to cardboard boxes, shifting cookie and other containers to more recyclable packaging is likely to be more challenging. The company has been pressured for the past few years to phase out plastic packaging by an activist group called As You Sow. The group has presented annual proposals to shareholders pushing for the change, with the most recent one this past May winning about 31% of total votes.
According to As You Sow, Mondelez has been using flexible film or other plastic packaging such as pouches for Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Tang powdered drink mix, which are not recyclable. The group also said this type of packaging significantly contributes to plastic pollution in oceans and other waterways.
"Making all packaging recyclable is the first step to reduce the threat posed by ocean plastic pollution, and a necessary step for Mondelez International to work toward a more sustainable product line-up," As You Sow said in a release.
Even with challenges, sourcing and designing recyclable packaging shouldn't be that hard as long as the company is clear with vendors about what it wants. Educating global consumers about recycling options could prove to be much more difficult since logistics and financial feasibility widely differ in different areas of the U.S., let alone among different countries. But if the company sticks to its plan to partner with effective non-governmental organizations and others on that part of the program, such cooperation could yield significant results and other CPG companies may end up following its lead.
Along with advertising these changes through marketing and advertising campaigns, Mondelez may want to make it clear on product labeling that its packaging will be totally recyclable and give consumers some practical tips about how they can help close the circle once the package is empty. That could give the company a sustainability boost compared to its competitors and show consumers it is doing more than just talking about sustainability.