Circular economy of packaging
Danone is embedding circularity in its actions and products, and working with partners to co-build the circular economy of packaging.
There is a paradigm shift brewing as the world begins to shift from a linear economy to a circular one. A circular economy approach looks beyond take-make-dispose models of production and consumption, to models that keep products and materials in use; eliminate waste and pollution; and regenerate natural systems. Danone is embracing a circular model, embedding circularity into our business by organizing our key materials -- milk, plastic and water -- into cycles, and working to align our actions and products with circular economy principles.
A circular approach is essential for packaging and for plastics in particular. Plastics are among the most useful materials developed by science, valued as a lightweight and safe material for packaging and storage. At Danone, plastics packaging plays a fundamental role in protecting the quality and nutritional benefits of our products, and guaranteeing food safety. Yet plastic has become a key environmental challenge. Today, only 14% of all plastic packaging materials produced worldwide are collected for recycling, and 10% is actually recycled. 72% of plastic packaging is not recovered at all. As a result, large amounts of plastic are flowing into our natural environment, particularly our oceans.
In November 2016, we published our Packaging Policy to reaffirm our commitment to co-building a circular economy of packaging by sourcing sustainable materials and creating a second life for all plastics. Since then, we have been working to design circularity into our products, invest in breakthrough technologies, eliminate waste from production, and improve collection and recycling systems. We have also become a leading partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the New Plastics Economy Initiative.
Moving towards 100% circular by design
By purchasing more recycled content, we can help drive demand and create economies of scale for recyclers, lowering costs and spurring the adoption of recycled materials industry-wide. This is why we are increasing the use of recycled materials in our packaging. We have reached 14% recycled PET in our Waters division (in all markets where regulation allows), and are aiming to reach 25% rPET by 2020, and 33% in 2025.
We have also developed an eco-design tool to help packaging designers ensure that fewer materials are used in production, and that more materials get recycled after consumption.
Investing in breakthrough innovation
Danone is investing in breakthrough technologies with a potential to create a step change for the circular economy.
In 2017, Danone signed a partnership with LOOP Industries, which has developed a way to continuously recycle all types of waste PET into high purity, food grade plastic, eliminating the need to treat different colors and grades of plastic through separate processes.
In another partnership with Nestlé Waters and Origin materials, we are accelerating the development of 100% bio-based packaging. We plan to bring the first 95% bio-based bottle to commercial scale by 2022, and will share the technology and processes behind it with the entire industry, with the hope of spurring change on a global scale
Zero plastics to landfill
In addition to product design, we are also looking to ensure our production sites follow circular economy principles.
In our Packaging Policy, we set a goal of zero plastics to landfill for our industrial waste by 2020 in countries with developed collection systems, and by 2025 for all our production sites globally. We are close to reaching this goal, with 88% of plastic waste diverted from landfill in 2017.
Strengthening collection and recycling systems
In all countries where we are present, we look to strengthen collection and recycling schemes in a way that reduces leakage in the environment and drives inclusive growth.
In countries where formal recycling systems exist, we promote and invest in solutions that incentivize all packaging producers to increase collection, recycling and productive re-use, as well as lowering the cost of recycling to society.
In France, for example, we pioneered the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility, with the founding of Eco-Emballages in 1992. We continue to support social innovation in recycling today through our partnership with Lemon-Aide France, which uses reverse-vending machines to make recycling easier for on-the-go consumers.
In countries where recycling systems are informal, we work with local communities and governments to improve standards for waste collection and invest in recycling infrastructure. Danone and the Danone Ecosystem Fund have invested in inclusive recycling initiatives in eight countries to date, including Brazil, Ghana, and Indonesia.
Danone is also looking at innovative ways to recover plastic that has leaked into the environment. In 2018, Danone teamed up with the Dutch non-profit startup Ocean Cleanup on a research mission to develop scalable advanced technologies that could help rid the oceans of plastic.
Leading through purpose-driven brands
In 2018, evian became the first Danone global brand to aim for 100% circularity by 2025, meaning that evian’s plastic bottles will be made from 100% recycled material. evian plans to achieve this through pioneering partnerships to redesign its packaging, accelerate recycling initiatives, and seek zero plastic bottle waste. evian is also collaborating with VICE Impact to create educational documentaries about plastic usage and waste in order to raise consumer awareness about the need for systemic change.
Likewise, Danone’s Argentinian brand Villavicencio has sought to engage the public around its new Rebotella bottle—the first in Argentina to be 100% recyclable and made with 50% recycled plastic. Consumers have a critical role to play in the circular economy, by making sure that recyclable packaging actually gets recycled. As a step towards engaging consumers, the launch of Rebotella’s bottle was accompanied by a television campaign starring a popular local actor to promote the importance of waste collection and recycling.
Towards the end of 2017, Danone launched a bottle for its brand ‘So Delicious’ made from bio-plastic (bio-HDPE). This bottle is made of a minimum of 80% plant-based plastic made from sugar cane, reducing the brand’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Circular economy is a journey which requires experimentation and continuous improvement. This type of brand engagement is key to our global strategy, as it helps us pilot solutions that nourish and inform our commitments.