June 05 is celebrated as World Environment Day (WED) all over the world. This year’s theme for WED was #BeatPlasticPollution and India was selected as the host nation. As per UN Environment, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once — and then thrown away. As per FICCI, the global average per capita consumption of plastic remains 28 Kg, while in India it was pegged at 11 Kg. As per CPCB, 8% of the total solid waste continues to be plastic in nature and only 60% of it is being recycled.
Multinational companies like Nestle, ITC, Coca-Cola and others play a vital role in sustainable plastic waste management as 43% of manufactured plastics (in India) are used for packaging purpose and most are of single use. In fact, Government of India (GoI) has also notified the Plastic Waste Management Rules (PWM) 2016 which emphasized on corporate accountability and extended producer responsibility (EPR). As per the legal principle of EPR, brand owners are responsible for collecting the waste in consultation with the urban local body (ULB).
In a global brand audit exercise titled ‘Branded’, conducted by Greenpeace India and Break Free From Plastic Movement, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Nestle were identified as top three plastic polluters. In fact, a waste and brand audit conducted in twelve Himalayan states of India by Integrated Mountain Initiative and Zero Waste Himalayas also revealed brands like PepsiCo, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Haldirams and several others as top plastic polluters in the sensitive Himalayan ecosystem. Same has been affirmed by first of its kind Twin City Brand Audit conducted by Gati Foundation, a Dehradun based environmental think tank. The audit conducted by Gati revealed that Haldiram and Lays were the biggest plastic polluters in the cities of Rishikesh and Haridwar.
(Branded plastic waste in becoming a crucial policy and regulation issue. Image Source: CitizenMatters)
Due to growing global and national pressure to tackle the issue of plastic pollution, here’s a quick look at the policy decisions taken by these international brands with respect to sustainable plastic waste management:
1. Nestle- It has decided to convert all its packaging material completely recyclable or reusable by 2025. The global FMCG has also decided to collaborate and engage with local NGOs, ULBs, academia and waste aggregators.
2. Unilever- The company has also decided to completely convert its packaging material into recyclable or reusable material.
3. Coca-Cola- As per the company, 120 billion PET bottles are sold in the world in a year. Under its new campaign, World Without Waste Campaign company has set the target to recycle every bottle or can for every used one by the year 2030.
4. Procter & Gamble- The company recently produced first compostable Head & Shoulders Shampoo bottle. It has decided to make all plastic packaging recycling or reusable by 2030.
5. IKEA- It has decided to phase out all single-use plastics from its stores and restaurants by 2020.
6. Infosys- The senior management officials recently declared that Infosys will make its campus single-use plastics free by 2020. The company will ban the use of plastic carry bags, food sachets, toiletries, garbage bin liners and business card holders and PET bottles. The company has also aimed to reduce per capita plastic waste generation by 50% by 2020.
7. ITC- The company has also pledged to convert all its packaging into recyclable or reusable or compostable material within 2030.
8. PepsiCo- The global FMCG has pledged to launch a pilot project of using 100% compostable plant-based packaging for famous Lays and Kurkure brands. It has also decided to scale up recovery and recycling systems by 100% of its post-consumer plastic waste in the next few years.
9. Nike- The world-famous sporting brand has promised to scale up the use of post-consumer recycled materials and low carbon manufacturing processes in its product to minimize their environmental footprint. It also decided to redesign boxes to reduce packaging and eliminate chemical discharge.
10. Mcdonald’s- It will make all packaging material from renewable and recyclable sources by 2025.
Many of these companies have also become members of the United Kingdom’s Plastic Pact formulated by McArthur Foundation and WRAP, a sustainability action group. The geographical scope of this pact remains limited to UK. Also, the targets discussed above are voluntary in nature. Thus, environmental activists and action groups are pushing for a legislation at the global and domestic level to provide legal backup to these targets laid down by the global market giants. Will these companies be able to fulfill these targets? Only time will tell us!