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Food packaging creates 680 million tonnes of global greenhouse gas emissions yet prevents food waste. Pressured by environmentally aware consumers and regulators, fast-moving consumer goods firms are changing their packaging strategy.
Campbell Soup is a consumer packaged goods company with 2020 growth of 7% (53% in meals and beverages, 47% in snacks), with an overall market share of 2.18%. Its aim for “sustainable packaging to promote circularity” centres on the supply, disposal, and treatment recycling process. However, it used 441,019 tonnes of packaging, of which 39,598 tonnes of non-recyclable packaging.
Some of the packaging used post-consumer recycled content, which offsets raw material use and stimulates demand for recycled materials. Recycling is less destructive and energy-intensive than extraction, albeit the process still contributes to fossil fuel usage and emissions.
Despite glass and metals being infinitely recyclable, Campbell’s used post-consumer recycled content in 35% of its glass and 38% of its corrugated packaging; 70% in aluminum packaging; and still uses no post-consumer recycled content in plastic.
From the packaging that is recyclable, recycling success then falls on the consumer. Campbell expanded investment in clear labelling to educate consumers, yet produces snacks –one of the top 10 causes of littering.
Of the packaging that the consumer actually recycles, responsibility then falls on waste management systems. However, material development occurs faster and in a disconnected manner to the corresponding after-use system and existing recycling systems are not equipped to manage multi-material packaging. Campbell partners with recyclers on advancing recyclability of its more challenging packaging types.
Campbell’s packaging strategy fails to address its single-use nature through refill/return schemes. A fifth of plastic packaging could be replaced by reusable systems generating $700 million annual material cost saving for the industry.
Campbell continues to supply single-use packaging, albeit of better quality, adding to global greenhouse gas emissions as a result.