- PepsiCo is trying recyclable molded pulp rings on its soda cans to replace plastic ones, Food Navigator reported. For the next month, the molded pulp rings and secondary paperboard packaging will be used in Sacramento, California, on the company's 7.5-ounce six-packs of Pepsi and Sierra Mist.
- The two packaging options are recyclable. In addition, the molded pulp rings can be composted and are biodegradable in a commercial system.
- Emily Silver, vice president of innovation and marketing capabilities for PepsiCo Beverages North America, told Food Navigator the test will help the company achieve its goal of making all packaging recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025. She said the functionality, durability and environmental performance of packaging options are being considered now rather than the cost, although that will be one of many factors assessed once solutions are identified.
Similar to other big CPG companies trying to use less plastic or other materials in their packaging, Pepsi is exploring different strategies in order to meet its commitment to sustainability. Not only has the beverage and snack giant said it will convert all packaging to recyclable, compostable or biodegradable formats within five years, but it plans to reduce 35% of virgin plastic in its beverage packaging by 2025.
These are big goals, and ones consumers are increasingly looking for from the industry. As a result, food and beverage makers are working to cut back on plastic and operate more sustainably. More biodegradable, edible and alternative packaging options could meet consumer demand and illustrate this commitment. According to 2018 survey data from Nielsen, nearly half of U.S. consumers are likely to change their purchasing decisions to meet environmental standards.
Reducing the amount of virgin plastic in its beverage containers by 2025 could result in financial as well as environmental gains for Pepsi. More sustainable packaging would eliminate more than 8,000 metric tons of new plastic and about 11,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the company said last June.
PepsiCo has made changes to some of its other packaging, too. It announced in 2019 that it would test aluminum cans for Aquafina water products in some retail locations this year. The company also said it would switch its bubly sparkling water brand from a mix of cans and plastic bottles to all cans and move its Lifewtr bottled water products to 100% recycled plastic by the end of 2020.
Nestlé and Unilever also have agreed to phase in compostable, recyclable and biodegradable packaging by 2025, which illustrates the increasing response to consumer demand. The Danish brewing company Carlsberg has been working on a fully recyclable "Green Fibre Bottle" made from sustainably sourced wood fibers. Carlsberg announced in 2018 it planned to get rid of plastic rings on beer multipacks and use glue instead — a move it said could limit global plastic waste by more than 1,200 metric tons annually. And Florida-based SaltWater Brewery has used a biodegradable and compostable six-pack ring design since 2018 made from wheat and barley instead of plastic.
As for Pepsi, it may be trying out its new recyclable six-pack rings and paperboard packaging in California because the state has recently passed a number of laws mandating policy changes to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfills. If the company gets a good reception there, it may move toward adopting the molded pulp rings and paperboard packaging nationwide for its other beverage products.
But, as Pepsi has noted, cost will be one of the many factors influencing any final packaging solutions it adopts. Food and beverage companies are experimenting with different ways to improve their sustainability footprint, with the ultimate solution likely to be a blend of several different options. It might make sense for food and beverage giants to come together as part of a coalition to better share technologies and insight they gain when it comes to new packaging to help expedite the rollout and improve the overall sustainability of the industry.