Coast KZN

28 Mar 2019

A cooldrink and chips, hold the plastic please

Arthi Gopi (Independent on Saturday: IOL) Picture: Household items and food products that come in plastic packaging may soon be a thing of the past as producers work together to end plastic packaging. Picture: Pixabay

Durban – Feeling guilty about consuming chips or a cooldrink that comes in plastic packaging?

Well, producers of some branded consumer goods have committed themselves to turning the tide against plastic waste.

However, an environmental NGO has criticised the initiative as failing to address the root of the problem.

This week, brands such as Diageo, Unilever, The Coca Cola Company, and Nestlé launched the Africa Plastics Recycling Alliance at the CEO Africa Forum in Kigali, Rwanda. The alliance aims to turn the current challenge of plastic waste in Sub-Saharan Africa into an opportunity to create jobs and commercial activity by improving the collection and recycling of plastics.

“Plastics will remain an important packaging material if we are to give African consumers the safe and affordable products they need. However, we need to ensure that used packaging does not end up as litter. Unfortunately, a lack of collection and recycling capacity in many African markets coupled with growing populations is creating a growing problem of plastics waste. We see an opportunity to tackle that problem in a way that creates jobs and reduces dependency on imported materials while alternatives to plastics are developed,” said the alliance in a statement.

Unilever, a New Plastics Economy Global Commitment signatory, that produces food and household products, aims to have 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable and 25% recycled plastic content by 2025. They also aim to reduce packaging weight by one third and halve the waste associated with product disposal by 2020.

Coca-Cola aims to help collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030, produce packaging that is 100% recyclable by 2025, and to use at least 50% recycled material in packaging by 2030.

Diageo, a beverages company, aims to ensure 100% of plastic use is designed to be widely recyclable (or reusable/compostable), use plastics that allow for increased consumer recycling rate and achieve a 40% average recycled content in plastic bottles and 100% by 2030. They further aim to reduce total packaging weight by 15% by 2020.

Nestlé aims to make 100% of its packaging recyclable or re-usable by 2025, focus on developing packaging of the future and eliminate non-recyclable or hard to recycle plastics and create projects to help shape a waste-free future.

Environmental NGO Greenpeace said the companies needed to look at the reduction of single use plastics.

Renée Olende, Plastics Project Lead at Greenpeace Africa said: “We know that we cannot recycle our way out of the plastic pollution crisis yet multinational corporations like Unilever and Nestlé continue to invest time and effort into end-of-pipe solutions. Single-use plastics are an outdated and unsustainable concept altogether, and it is time for these multinational corporations to show leadership and real innovation by investing their massive resources into new delivery systems of refill and reuse.”

Olende urged the companies to make real commitments to reverse the current plastic crisis instead of focusing on profits.

“We need companies like Unilever and Nestlé to move away from the throwaway culture and immediately provide consumers with sustainable alternative solutions – informed by safe and innovative delivery systems,” said Olende.