- Mondelez is updating its Philadelphia cream cheese packaging to contain recycled plastic that was processed by Berry Global. Mondelez has vowed to make all of its packaging recyclable by 2025.
- This new packaging advances Berry’s commitment that it made last year to have 100% of its fast-moving consumer goods packaging as reusable, recyclable or compostable by the year 2025.
- Separately, Malaysian Ph.D. students created plastic-free packaging made out of edible red seaweed and starch. The packaging is biodegradable and can be dissolved in water.
As consumers embrace brands that exhibit many of the same beliefs they do, including human rights, sustainability and waste, companies are increasingly becoming more outspoken about these values in a bid to connect with those who buy their products. One way they have done this is by reconsidering the packaging they use to incorporate materials that are recyclable or by cutting back on others, such as plastic.
So far, it is showing signs of paying off. According to the Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 66% of consumers will pay more for products from brands committed to environmentally friendly practices.
Still, developing packaging that is both sustainable and functional remains a challenge for many companies. Production costs for sustainable options are often more expensive compared to traditional packaging. In addition, these materials also tend to be less effective in maintaining freshness. Packaging companies have said plastic can create a tighter seal and keep out air better than other materials.
There are many efforts to produce a solution that looks outside of plastic. NanoMalaysia, a team of Ph.D. students, has developed new bio-degradable packaging. Made out of seaweed, the packaging is edible and flexible, making it ideal to effectively vacuum seal products like beans, grains and legumes.
This new packaging option is not unique. In 2017, Indonesian-based startup Evoware created a tasteless edible wrapper made from seaweed. Another seaweed-based packaging alternative was a compostable and edible cup from Loliware made from organic sweetener and seaweed. While seaweed packaging options have been on the market for a while, none of them has taken off in a big way. Perhaps that is due to the price associated with the packaging, manufacturing challenges to make it on a broader scale or the ick factor that is sometimes associated with this sea plant.
For companies that are unwilling or unable to shift their packaging choices dramatically to incorporate an edible solution, many have turned their efforts to developing a circular economy for plastic. However, recycling plastic into food-grade packaging is not an easy feat. It has taken several years for some CPG companies to begin transitioning to more of these materials in their packaging.
Berry Global is one of those enterprises that has managed to convert plastic back into packaging that can be reused for containers. With consumers snacking more, Mondelez, the maker of Oreo and Ritz crackers, has seen an uptick in demand for its products. At the same time, it has been joining other CPGs in making its packaging more environmentally friendly. Currently, about 93% of the snacking giant's packaging is recyclable, but by using recycled plastic, its containers will be even more eco-friendly and perhaps more economical.
According to the berry growers and trade associations across North America that are aiming to have 100% recycle-ready packaging by 2025, creating a closed-loop circular economy that reuses packaging decreases overall costs. This strategy also could minimize reliance on virgin materials, which could lower manufacturing expenses. The result could be significant savings as 45% of the materials in U.S. landfills consists of food waste and packaging, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
With potential savings available from using less virgin plastic and 81% of millennial consumers continuing to demand more corporate citizenship from companies, the push for sustainable packaging options is unlikely to abate.
In fact, recent development from dozens of multi-national companies shows it picking up momentum. From beer maker Carlsberg to PepsiCo, plastic is falling by the wayside in favor of innovative solutions like wood-fiber bottles and a return to trusted standbys like the recyclable aluminum can in bottled water. But with the many benefits that come with using plastic, it's going to be some time before the popular packaging material gives up meaningful ground to alternative options.