Yakult’s plastic ambitions: Probiotic giant devises new sustainability strategy for packaging, carbon and water use

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Yakult devises new sustainability strategy to reduce greenhouse gas, plastic, and water consumption ©Yakult Honsha
Yakult devises new sustainability strategy to reduce greenhouse gas, plastic, and water consumption ©Yakult Honsha

Related tags: yakult, Probiotic, Sustainability, Japan

Yakult has detailed its plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 through its newly established Environmental Vision 2050, which will also include efforts to reduce plastic packaging by 30% by 2030.

The maker of probiotic cultured milk drinks has established targets for reducing greenhouse gas emission, plastic containers and packaging, as well as water usage across its entire value chain from R&D, procurement, production, logistics, sales and consumption.

Yakult Group sells its products in 40 countries, and about 40.15 million bottles of dairy products are consumed worldwide everyday.

Globally across all its production plants, it used 6.085 million m3​ of water annually. 

In Japan alone, Yakult Honsha emitted 409,434 tons of CO2​ annually, and used 11,994 tons of plastic as of fiscal 2019.

The company has set medium-term milestones for 2030, which are reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30%, plastic containers and packaging by 30%, and water consumption by 10%.

Greenhouse gas

Before achieving its medium-term targets, Yakult Honsha hopes to reduce carbon emissions by 10% by 2024.

This include the direct emission from its manufacturing process, as well as indirect emission from the use of power supplied by other companies.

It is examining measures to reduce greenhouse gases through energy conservation, switching production equipment to more energy efficient models, as well as transitioning to electricity from renewable energy.

Plastic

By 2024, Yakult Honsha also intends to reduce plastic containers and packaging in Japan by 5%, or make them recyclable.

Yukari Hoshi, assistant manager at Yakult’s CSR promotion and public relations department told NutraIngredients-Asia​: “We will first examine reducing the amount of plastic used for labels or switching their material, as well as removing the straws for products that can be consumed without them​.”

Yakult Europe has already switched product packaging from plastic film to paper cartons in some countries. In Singapore, Yakult has eliminated the use of plastic straws.

For its containers and packaging, the main material used is polystyrene.

While there is the view that polystyrene is a plastic that is difficult to recycle, a number of studies are being advanced towards horizontal recycling for polystyrene,​” Hoshi explained.

The company is conducting research studies on the horizontal recycling of polystyrene, where the product is turned into a material resource and is then used to create the same product, as well as exploring the use of other materials including biomass.

In Japan, post-industrial polystyrene such as defective containers from Yakult Honsha plants and other bottling companies are purchased by a recycling company and used as the raw material to make a variety of recycled products.

Therefore, polystyrene is a material that has been demonstrated to be recyclable. To promote even greater consciousness of recycling, a portion of this polystyrene can be used to manufacture special recycled goods, such as rulers and bottle openers, that can be distributed free of charge to people participating in plant tours and environmental events​,” Hoshi said.

So far, Yakult’s plastic initiatives are targeted for the Japan market, and hopefully extend to the export markets in the future.

For now, the plan for the overseas market is to assess plastic usage amounts and devise a plan to tackle the issue.

In addition, there are a variety of different regulations for plastic depending on the country or region, so we will examine the local regulations and trends and respond to each accordingly​,” Hoshi said.

Water

By 2024, Yakult Honsha also hopes to reduce water consumption at its dairy plants in Japan by 3%.

Hoshi said: “Water is a raw material for our products, so it is not easy to reduce its use.

“However, we will continue to work to reduce the amount of water used through water conservation and draft a water management plan. For water reduction, we will first conduct a detailed analysis of how much water we are using at our plants and examine how much water we can reduce.”

 

Related topics: Soft Drinks & Water, Functional Beverages

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