In ‘Waste and Opportunity 2015’ – a survey and study jointly produced by As You Sow (AYS) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), author Conrad MacKerron, senior VP at AYS, argued growing use of flexible packaging for kids’ drinks is of concern as it cannot currently be recycled.
“The biggest challenge to increasing recyclability of beverage packaging is the growing use of laminated pouches and other flexible plastic packaging for children’s beverages that cannot be readily recycled, such as Kraft’s Capri Sun brand,” he wrote.
“Kraft Foods should follow the lead of competitor Honest Tea/Honest Kids and shift its Capri Sun packaging from pouches to a more recyclable form of packaging,” he added.
When contacted for comment by BeverageDaily.com, Kraft said its six year partnership with TerraCycle has ramped up recycling efforts, adding that it continues to take steps towards addressing packaging waste management.
It said it is focusing on optimizing packaging designs and minimizing the amount of material used.
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MacKerron warned the swift rise of flexible packaging, “with no apparent strategy by companies that produce it or brands that use it to make it recyclable,” means these materials continue to be landfilled, littered, and sometimes swept into waterways – increasing pollution here and in oceans as well.
He also took aim at use of materials like shrink wrap on bottles and its contribution to a high level of product yield loss – 30%+ for post-consumer PET from curbside programs.
As part of the study, MacKerron analysed surveys sent to 11 leading beverage companies – AB InBev, Boston Beer Company, Coca-Cola, Diageo, Dr Pepper Snapple, Heineken, Miller Coors, Nestle Waters, New Belgium Brewing Co, PepsiCo and Red Bull.
The likes of Coke, Pepsi and Nestle Waters won some praise from AYS for a relatively proactive approach to recycling and specific recycling commitments. For instance, Coke has cut the glass used to make its 8oz bottle by 50% since its introduction, while Pepsi said it reduced its packaging load by 109m pounds in 2013.
And turning to recycled content, MacKerron said PepsiCo is the only major beverage company to maintain a “consistent, if modest” 10% level of recycled PET (rPET) since 2005 across its entire brand family.
Within the wider beverage industry, he singled out fused flexible laminate packaging (mainly used for kids’ drinks) as the major recycling concern, since mechanical separation of the laminate layers – usually aluminum and different types of plastic – is very difficult.
Coke-owned brand Honest Tea told AYS it will continue to transition Honest Kids juice packaging from pouches to aseptic containers – which have a growing recycling infrastructure in the States – from autumn 2014.
But Kraft Foods (which holds the Capri Sun license in the US) is so far refusing to blink – although AYS says that “using non-recyclable packaging when recyclable alternatives are available wastes enormous amounts of resources, in contrast to aluminium and PET, which can be recycled many times over”.
A spokesperson for Kraft told BeverageDaily.com its partnership with private company TerraCycle has boosted recycling efforts.
“At Kraft, we take a comprehensive approach to packaging – one that aims to cut waste, conserve natural resources, promote food safety, meet the extensive packaging regulations and is satisfying to our consumers. We consider the appearance, functionality, cost and environmental impact of all our packaging designs," the spokesperson said.
“Over the last six years, our partnership with TerraCycle has ramped up our recycling efforts, resulting in more than 200m post-consumer rink pouches being collected, recycled or upcycled.
“And in 2012, we invested significantly in developing a new box for the Capri Sun pouches, remaking the iconic box with paperboard instead of cardboard (the new packaging uses paperboard as well). This change resulted in a 30m pound reduction in packaging in 2012, and led to greater efficiency in shipping.
“We continue to take steps toward addressing packaging waste management – for Capri Sun but also company-wide – by focusing on optimizing our packaging designs and minimizing the amount of materials used.“
But although MacKerron conceded that private company TerraCycle has ‘recycled’ 200m+ pouches (produced by Capri Sun and other brands) in the past five years, he said the extrusion system used is not able to extract the valuable aluminum portion that remains in the material.
“Even assuming that all 200m pouches were Capri Sun pouches, we calculate that this total represents only about 2% of the total US sales of Capri Sun, which is not a meaningful recovery rate,” MacKerron wrote.
“Ideally such pouches and other packages can eventually incorporate recycled content as well as become completely recyclable,” he added.