Diageo looks at packaging in innovation agenda

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Diageo says the industry has a responsibility to support recycling infrastructure. Pic:iStock/joegolby
Diageo says the industry has a responsibility to support recycling infrastructure. Pic:iStock/joegolby

Related tags Recycling

Diageo says it will increase the use of alternative materials in packaging as part of its ‘innovation agenda’: particularly with attention to plastic packaging that meets its sustainable packaging commitments. 

Diageo, whose top global brands include Guinness, Baileys, Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff, has set targets to ensure all its packaging is recyclable by 2020.  

Around 90% of Diageo’s packaging (by weight) is currently made from glass. However, it is increasing the use of alternative materials and formats (and particularly those suited to smaller sized packages), such as PET bottles, plastic closures, Tetra Pak cartons, multilayer pouches, sachets and other small formats all use plastics, such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene (PP).

Such formats will also help the company meet the consumer demand for smaller and single serve packs.

Diageo says that, like other global companies, it has a “responsibility to encourage and support improved infrastructure for collection, recycling and reprocessing of plastic packaging to address associated environmental issues.”

Reducing weight

Diageo has published its Sustainable Packaging Commitments Guideline for Plastics this month. 

“Using PET instead of glass can provide sustainability benefits, for example by reducing the weight of packaging and associated carbon emissions from transport,” ​says Diageo.

Diageo’s 2020 sustainability targets for all packaging:

• Sustainably source 100% of paper and board packaging (for secondary packaging)

• Increase average recycled content to 45%

• Reduce total packaging weight by 15%

• Ensure 100% of packaging is recyclable

“However, most plastics are made from petroleum-based materials – although a limited portion use bio-based or recycled resources – and only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally.”

Diageo observes that most plastic packaging is only used once and then sent to landfill; at least 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the sea each year.

“As the global population rises the demand for packaged products also rises. In many developing markets, the desire for packaged products is growing, but infrastructure for collecting and recycling waste packaging is often lacking,” ​continues the report.

“While the majority of Diageo’s plastic packaging is used for products sold in developed markets, such as North America, it is also increasingly used in developing markets that often lack appropriate infrastructure to recover this material.”

Hence, it says global companies like itself have a responsibility to address infrastructure for recycling.

Areas to address: sourcing, designing, reusing

Diageo’s strategy for making its packaging more sustainable covers three phrases: sourcing, designing, and reuse.

It has pledged to increase recycled content in all packaging by 45% by 2020 (from a 2009 baseline). It is also seeking PET manufactured from bio-based raw materials.

Meeting small pack trends

Diageo sees the rise of small formats to respond to consumer needs. These include ‘freeze and squeeze’ seasonal containers, lightweight portable wine bags and Tetra Pak cartons, as well as smaller, convenient and lower-cost formats such as sachets in some markets.

In packaging design, Diageo says it is exploring new opportunities to improve pack designs using plastic materials to contribute to its target to reduce total packaging weight by 15% compared to 2009.

Diageo says it has a responsibility to make it as easy as possible for consumers to recycle packaging. “Packaging made from PET and Tetra Pak cartons is recyclable. However, recycling facilities for these types of packaging are lacking in many developing countries, and other formats such as sachets and multilayer pouches are rarely recycled. Our target is to ensure 100% of our packaging is recyclable or compostable by 2020.”

Changing consumer behavior will be key to this goal, as will improving infrastructure, it adds.

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