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Brief Published: 26 Jul 2018

Plastic Pledge: How Big Brands Are Addressing Sustainability

Starbucks straw-less lids

With more environmentally conscious consumers now regarding sustainability as a necessity, big brands and retailers are realising the importance of their sustainability agendas. We take a look at the latest initiatives, and how brands such as Adidas and Starbucks are taking it mainstream.

  • Plastic Phase Out: Pret A Manger has pledged to reduce its reliance on single-use plastic and is removing straws, drink stoppers and teaspoons from its stores. Both Starbucks and McDonald’s also plan to phase out plastic straws, replacing them with paper alternatives and straw-less lids for cups.

    UK grocer Iceland is leading by example after pledging to become plastic-free by eliminating all own-brand plastic packaging within five years and replacing it with trays and bags made from paper or pulp.

    Ikea will also phase out single-use plastic products such as plates, cups and freezer bags from its stores and restaurants by 2020.
  • Virgin Plastic Alternatives: In a move that will save 40 tonnes of plastic a year, Adidas has committed to eliminating its use of virgin plastic by 2024, using only recycled plastic in its offices, retail outlets, warehouses and distribution centres.

    Ikea has committed to phasing out oil-based plastics, ensuring all its plastic products are made using recycled materials by August 2020. For an example, see Ikea’s Recycled Kitchen, produced as part of the company’s sustainability initiative.

    As part of a ground-breaking scheme to reduce cup waste, Starbucks and McDonald’s have joined forces to develop a worldwide recyclable and/or compostable solution to disposable cups. The NextGen Cup Challenge invites innovators and suppliers to submit promising designs for single-use cups. Entrants with good ideas will receive grants to help them realise their solutions.
PET plastic bottles
Black plastic is highly problematic for recyclers
  • Pushing for Circularity: The UK Plastic Pact, a pioneering collaborative initiative, has been set up by sustainability experts Wrap to create a circular economy for plastics – bringing together brands which are responsible for 80% of all plastic packaging sold in UK supermarkets.

    Companies including Unilever, Nestle and Coca-Cola have signed up to the pact, which outlines that 100% of plastic packaging will have to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco have also joined.
  • Improving Recycling Methods: British waste management company Viridor is collaborating with Danish packaging manufacturer Faerch Plast and UK supermarkets Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s to transform recycled black plastic into new packaging solutions.

    Currently, black plastic is highly problematic for recyclers. Made using carbon black pigment, it is undetectable by infrared optical sorting equipment and is commonly sent to landfill as a result.

    The project will essentially disperse collected black plastic into recycled coloured plastic streams, which will then be used in new packaging for the retailers.

    In a similar vein, Waitrose has promised to stop using black plastic trays by the end of 2019.
Morrisons bottle deposit scheme
  • Encouraging Good Practice: In a bid to improve recycling rates, the UK government announced a deposit return scheme earlier this year that would see consumers receive a small cash sum for the return of used plastic, glass and metal drinks containers. Several retailers, including Iceland and the Co-op, have expressed their support.  

    Meanwhile, Morrisons is trialling return vending machines at two of its stores – with customers receiving store coupons in exchange for used plastic bottles.

    Food and drink chains, including Pret A Manger and Costa Coffee, have introduced a small discount on drinks for customers who supply their own cups.

See Sustainability Turns Smart for more intelligent manufacturing solutions and Material Direction: Evolving Plastics for pioneering plastic alternatives.

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