The goal will apply across PepsiCo’s beverage operations, including company-owned and franchise, in all countries expected to be European Union members in 2025.
By 2025, it hopes to have hit 45%. Currently, around 13% of the plastic it uses in its EU beverage operations is recycled plastic.
If the multinational hits its target, it will more than triple the amount of recycled plastic (rPET) it uses, equivalent to over 50,000 tonnes.
In addition to its eponymous cola brand, PepsiCo also owns the beverage brands Pepsi Max, 7Up, Tropicana, Lipton and Naked.
The UK is not covered by this target announced today but PepsiCo has already signed the UK's Plastics Pact along with more than 40 other businesses.
PepsiCo’s promise comes a few months after Coca-Cola pledged to double the amount of recycled plastic used in its bottles in Great Britain from 25% to 50% by 2020. Danone-owned Evian is aiming for 100% recycled plastic in its bottles by 2025.
Paul Skehan, senior director for EU public policy and government affairs at PepsiCo, told FoodNavigator: “Our 50% target for the EU is already very ambitious when you consider that there are several external factors over which we have limited control that are needed to be in place to allow us to fulfil our goal. These include significantly increased availability of recycled plastics, at affordable prices, which are suitable for food packaging.”
Skehan added: “[It’s] worth noting, however, that if we see the right progress on these enablers, we are prepared to go further in our target."
PepsiCo’s R&D, procurement and operations departments are now working to meet its 50% goal but the multinational says it will not be able to achieve its target without other external factors.
This includes increased availability of food grade recycled plastics and greater transparency from the recycling industry to ensure only food grade plastic is used.
According to president of PepsiCo Europe Sub-Saharan Africa Silviu Popovici there is “serious under-capacity” in the supply of affordable recycled plastics suitable for food packaging.
Meanwhile, Skehan said China’s decision to stop importing EU waste has “undoubtedly” put pressure on EU countries – and companies operating in the EU – to find solutions.
“It has certainly acted as a spur to western governments, and western societies to focus more on the need for a circular economy. While the decision may cause short-term difficulties for our societies, in the long term it may be very beneficial if it helps shift our behaviours and systems towards being more sustainable. We cannot just export our problems.”
The company is now calling on the Commission “or some other trusted third party” to convene all stakeholders in order to achieve a circular economy.
“It is not enough to ask all consumers to be more mindful about what they do with waste. It is not enough to encourage PepsiCo and other companies to use more rPET. It is not enough to urge local and municipal authorities to facilitate the collection of different streams of waste […] to be sorted.
“Everyone must act together, and for that to happen, there needs to be a forum where blockages or barriers exist. We need a holistic solution to what is a very difficult set of problems. The Commission can and should play a big role in that regard.”
While PepsiCo estimates that currently around 90% of the packaging used in its beverages around the world is fully recyclable, it does not know how much of that is actually recycled as recycling rates vary greatly from country to country.
However, it is a partner of the New Plastics Economy, a global initiative led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which aims to move towards 70% recycling of all plastic packaging.
“While we do not have control over how much plastic is ultimately recycled, we can take responsibility for making sure our bottles can be recycled (or reused or compostable), when those other systems are in place,” Skehan said
According to the European Commission’s recent plastic strategy, 10 million tonnes of recycled plastics should be used to make new products in the EU by 2025.
In 2017, PepsiCo generated more than $63 billion (€54bn) in net revenue, and has 22 brands in its portfolio that generate more than $1 billion (€0.86bn) each in estimated annual retail sales.
Last month, CEO Indra Nooyi, who launched PepsiCo’s Performance with Purpose strategy, announced she was stepping down from the helm after more than 10 years at the top.