PepsiCo has Thirst for Circular Economy Goal

27 January 2022 by Lawrence Hallett
blog author

​PepsiCo Europe has announced ambitious plans to banish virgin fossil-based plastic in its entire range of crisp and chip bags by 2030. 

The food and beverage corporation will apply the pledge to brands including Doritos, Walkers and Lay’s which will be packaged in 100 per cent recycled or renewable plastic. 

PepsiCo was named one of the world’s top plastic polluters for the third year in a row in 2020, and the latest move follows the introduction of the company’s sustainability strategy PepsiCo Positive which was launched last September to drive sustainable long-term value. 

The company has already announced plans to transform its drinks packaging, by transitioning the Pepsi brand into 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles in eleven European markets by 2022 and will continue investing in building a reusable model, including through SodaStream, to avoid an estimated 200 billion plastic bottles by 2030. 

The new packaging ambition is expected to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) from film packaging by up to 40 per cent and consumer trials will be rolled out in European markets this year. 

Recycled content, from previously used plastic, will be trialled in the UK later in the year for a range from the Walkers brand and all renewable content will be derived from by-products of plants such as used cooking oil or paper pulp waste.  

Silviu Popovici, Chief Executive Officer, PepsiCo Europe, said: “Flexible packaging recycling should be the norm across Europe. We see a future where our bags will be free of virgin fossil-based plastic. They will be part of a thriving circular economy where flexible packaging is valued and can be recycled as a new packet.  

“We’re investing with our partners to build technological capacity to do that. We now need an appropriate regulatory landscape in place so that packaging never becomes waste.” 

PepsiCo uses flexible plastic for its snack packaging because it is lightweight and has a low carbon footprint. However, the company is mindful that change is needed to drive circularity in flexible packaging and will focus on three strategic pillars: the right design, the right infrastructure and the right new life for flexible packaging. 

Gerald Rebitzer, Sustainability Director at AMCOR, PepsiCo’s flexible packaging partner in Europe, said: “We are building a future where flexible packaging is part of the circular economy. Together with PepsiCo, we enhanced the material technologies on PepsiCo’s new crisp packet to make it easier to recycle.  

“And we are beginning to integrate renewable and recycled content into PepsiCo’s packaging. To meet the demands of our clients like PepsiCo, we encourage more partners upstream to invest in the supply chains of these new materials.” 

PepsiCo has also been working to reduce unnecessary packaging across its individual bags and multipacks as part of its commitment to a 50 per cent reduction in virgin plastic per serving by 2030.  

It has committed to infrastructure investment to reuse flexible packaging and in advocating for policy changes to enable this. This includes collaborating on and financing the development of effective waste collection systems in Europe and investing in schemes such as the Flexible Plastics Fund in the UK and REFLEX in Poland.  

The company is also exploring the conversion of packets into plastic pellets to be remade into items such as floor posts and as parts within the automotive industry. 

Archana Jagannathan, Senior Director, Sustainable Packaging, PepsiCo Europe, said: “Through collaboration and innovation, we can progress to a viable circular economy for our food packaging in Europe.  

“Today, the supply of recycled and renewable materials for flexibles is limited.  The regulatory environment is very dynamic, and we need more clarity on policy and recognised technologies. If a policy and waste infrastructure, similar to beverage bottle packaging accelerates for flexibles, we will speed up our plans and go even faster to meet our commitments.” 

Lawrence Hallett, Consultant, Sustainable Business, Acre said: “With products being available at the click of a button, too much of the developed world plays a key role in the circular economy. PepsiCo’s position in the market as one of the industry's largest companies comes with the responsibility to lead from the front and set ambitious goals. I’m glad to see PepsiCo taking this initiative seriously and committing to hitting targets by 2030. Progressing as quickly as possible to a circular economy for their food and drink packaging is a necessity. With increasing innovation in the packaging space, who knows, maybe PepsiCo can hit their target before 2030.” 

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Lawrence is a consultant within Acre's Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability team in the UK.  Lawrence has 4 1/2 years of recruitment experience, specialising in the Internal Audit space within Commerce & Industry. Here, he helped develop the company's profile, building strong relationships with new and existing clients. Lawrence has always been passionate about the natural world & sustainability, and holds a BSc in Geography with Environmental Studies from Southampton Solent University.