PepsiCo's approach is based on three interconnected strategies - reducing the amount of plastic it uses, recycling more plastic to support a circular economy and reinventing the plastic packaging it uses.
The story of a shift towards more sustainable packaging from PepsiCo began in 2006 with the launch of its “Performance with Purpose”.
This move was designed to start a journey to “transform” the way it does business, meaning it could deliver strong financial returns in a “way that is responsive to the needs of the world”.
According to the firm, its fundamental belief is that its success is inextricably linked to the sustainability of the world.
The company, which generated more than $67bn in net revenue in 2019, makes a vast amount of its money from its food and beverage portfolio – including 23 brands that generate more than $1bn each in estimated annual retail sales.
Add this to the fact that PepsiCo generated a total of 2.2 million metric tonnes of virgin plastic in 2018, it’s no surprise that developing sustainable packaging is a top priority for the company.
How is PepsiCo going about making its packaging more sustainable?
The firm’s approach is based on three interconnected strategies – reducing the amount of plastic it uses, recycling more plastic to support a circular economy and reinventing the plastic packaging it uses.
As part of this work, PepsiCo is “driving change” by working with a broad group of partners – including industry peers, non-profit organisations, and people and companies throughout the plastics supply chain.
In addition to this, it’s investing in and advocating for improved recycling infrastructure as well as educating and actively empowering consumers.
It’s charting this progress through four goals it’s looking to achieve by 2025, all of which align with at least one of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
These targets include making sure that all of its packaging is designed to be 100% recyclable, compostable or biodegradable, and increasing the amount of recycled content in its plastic packaging to 25%.
It’s also looking to reduce the amount of virgin plastic content across its beverage portfolio by 35%, and invest to increase recycling rates in “key markets” – which includes educating and encouraging consumers to recycle.
The firm has been doing this work since 2010 when it launched the PepsiCo Recycling Program.
What is the PepsiCo Recycling Program?
The PepsiCo Recycling Program sees the business runs a raft of different schemes to improve recycling rates.
This includes Recycle Rally, which uses methods such as contests to increase recycling at schools in the US.
In addition to this, it offers educational establishments a “library of resources” – such as activities, lessons, event guides, and promotional and recognition materials – to “educate and inspire” young people to recycle.
Alongside this, PepsiCo operates the “Recycling Roadster” in the US, which is a hybrid vehicle that travels to communities across the US to inform people about the importance of recycling.
It does this by offering games and self-guided activities, as well as a digital experience that utilises videos so consumers can put their recycling know-how to the test.
It’s also working with retailers and communities to make recycling more accessible and convenient for everyone.
It does this by offering recycling bins to game day and community events, with these also being placed at neighbourhood parks, community centres, pools and recreation facilities.
Alongside this, it operates recycling bins, trailers and drop-off stations “closer to home” and on university campuses.
In addition, PepsiCo is a founding member of the Closed Loop Fund, which is an organisation that provides investment that cities, counties and businesses use to take the steps necessary to move recycling to the “next level”.
It’s doing this by developing trucks for pick-up and hauling, and creating “cutting-edge technologies” to make recovery facilities work better.
Since 2014 it has been a member of a coalition of companies through The Recycling Partnership, which provides communities with the tools and information to recycle more and recycle better.
All of this work has, to date, seen PepsiCo help to collect more than 125 million cans and bottles.
How else is PepsiCo looking to help consumers become more sustainable?
As well as its recycling work, PepsiCo operates “Beyond the Bottle”, which aims to deliver beverages to consumers that are free from single-use plastic.
One way it’s doing this is through its SodaStream subsidiary, which is a manufacturer of a drinks machine that makes sparkling water.
The number one sparkling water brand in the world, it was purchased by PepsiCo in 2019 and provides consumers the option to prepare personalised beverages at home in reusable bottles.
Due to the growth of its SodaStream business, it’s estimated that 67 billion single-use plastic bottles will be avoided by 2025.
Between 2019 and 2020, it ran a pilot programme that saw it install 30 SodaStream units in select workplaces, universities and hospitality partners across the US, with the commercial launch of this platform continuing to expand.
Additionally, PepsiCo is exploring alternative materials and solutions to make its packaging with – for example it uses a process called “charge compaction” in its snacks packaging, which allows the snacks to settle to the bottom of a bag before sealing.
Between 2018 and 2019, it tested 100% industrially compostable thin-film plant-based packaging for snack products.