Nestlé’s packaging plan

Waste Management Review speaks to Nestlé Packaging Specialist Jacky Nordsvan about the company’s packaging strategy, plan for soft plastics and zero waste to landfill agenda.

Recyclable packaging commitments are becoming more and more ambitious among multinationals and small to medium enterprises alike.

Multinational companies such as PepsiCo, Asahi and Nestlé have all made pledges for 100 per cent recyclable or reusable packaging into the future. These trends were complemented in April by Australia’s federal, state and territory environment ministers endorsing a target of all Australian packaging being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025 or earlier.

Nestlé has set its own ambitious global goals to make 100 per cent of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, and to have zero waste from operations to landfill by 2020.

In order to progress its goals, the company has implemented EcodEX, a packaging eco-design tool designed to measure the environmental performance of a packed food product, which it uses in new product development. At a local level, through membership of the co-regulatory organisation the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, Nestlé is using its online Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP) to assess the recyclability of its packaging formats and assist in building design for recycling up front in new product development processes. Several programs, such as coffee pod recycling and soft plastics schemes, all contribute towards these goals.

APCO TOOLS IN ACTION

Jacky Nordsvan, Nestlé Packaging Specialist and APCO board member, tells Waste Management Review that using APCO’s PREP tool has helped understand which of the company’s items are recyclable and make the required changes. This has helped it make changes to areas of packaging such as label substrates, colour, size and shape and determine whether an item will make it through from kerbside to the relevant recycling stream. The tool is available to all APCO members and covers Australia and New Zealand.

“We had previously assumed our Café Menu chocco topping shakers would be recyclable, because they were made from a commonly recycled material,” Jacky explains.

“When we ran it through the PREP tool, it asks a number of questions, one of which was if there was carbon black used as a pigment in the material. Because the shaker had carbon black, it was not seen by the near-infrared sensor used by the materials recovery facilities to sort different materials, and so the shaker was ejected to the landfill stream.”

Jacky says as a result of this, the carbon black has been phased out as of June.

“Because of that small change, 84.5 tonnes of plastic will be avert from landfill.”

She says the newly-released APCO Australasian Recycling Label (ARL), which was designed to eliminate consumer confusion around recycling through clear labelling, will help decontaminate the recycling system. This will occur progressively as more companies transition to the new system and phase out old packaging.

Jacky says this will complement the PREP tool, which will verify the application of the labels. She says that Nestlé is aiming for a wide rollout of the ARL on its products, beginning with its Allen’s lollies products this year. Jacky says that will take time as Nestlé has to verify each of its products for recyclability before transitioning to the new labelling system.

“Not only do we have a tool that can be used early on when designing new packaging, but in addition we are able to label in a way that makes it very clear what is recyclable. I think that in itself will encourage some change,” she says.

SOFT PLASTICS PROGRESS

Jacky says Nestlé is part of a global consortium which has been set up to establish recycling guidelines for soft plastics, involving material developers, packaging suppliers and waste management companies.

“By volume, soft plastics is our largest packaging type that we use locally, so the high focus on this has been due to the difficulty of recycling them.” She adds that other materials such as glass and rigid materials are largely recyclable, but it’s also about ensuring they have end markets.

In Australia, Nestlé is a partner with Melbourne-based product stewardship group REDcycle to collect soft plastics for recycling.

“We also want to be able to understand how we can better design our soft plastics to enable a higher quality recycling stream,” she says.

PACKAGING INNOVATIONS

In terms of packaging design, Nestlé introduced digital printing capabilities for its packaging in 2016, eliminating 1000 printing plates, 40,000 litres of water and 85,000 litres of solvent in its first year.

“Conventional printing can run quite a lot of material through the machine before it’s ready to print.

“But with the digital frame, it’s working within a few metres,” Jacky says.

ZERO WASTE TO LANDFILL BY 2020

Nestlé’s zero operational waste to landfill by 2020 plan has seen a series of strategies incorporated across each of its factories across the globe to prevent waste generation and divert materials from landfill. Each of its sites in Australia has incorporated its own measures to help meet these targets. Its Gympie factory in Queensland, home of Nescafé, has ensured 68 per cent of the factory’s energy needs are met by renewable sources, predominately spent coffee grounds. In its Campbellfield and Broadford confectionery factories in Victoria, waste product is sent to commercial farmers to use as a stock feed, as well as a fertiliser.

“Because of the different products our factories are making and their various geographies, they all have different challenges. However, there is certainly best practice sharing in improving waste segregations,” she says.

She adds that factory managers network regularly to share ideas and address their own individual challenges.

“We’ve got everything from coffee and Milo, right through to confectionery and pet food.”

COFFEE POD RECYCLING

Recycling coffee pods has also been a priority for Nestlé, with recycling programs for its Nespresso capsules and Nescafé Dolce Gusto pods set up since 2010 and 2014 respectively.

Jacky says its Nescafé Dolce Gusto pods are collected by its industry partner TerraCycle.

In 2016, it extended the reach of its Nespresso capsule recycling program. Jacky says early indications show an increase in recycling uptake. Its recycling processes separate the aluminium and coffee grounds, with the coffee going to compost and aluminium recycled.

In Australia, Nespresso capsules can now be recycled in four ways: at Nespresso Boutiques, at select florists and garden centres, at bulk recycling points in workplaces or community locations or by post via a special Australia Post satchel.

“The area of packaging recyclability requires collaboration right across the entire value chain. We have already seen some great partnerships established, and the ambitions for the future bring together competitors in a space where we all win and so does the planet,” she says.