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Sonoco Sets New Sustainable Packaging, Recycling Commitments

The company said the move supports the food industry's efforts to reduce global food waste.

Sonoco has expanded its environmental and social stewardship initiatives to include commitments to achieve greater packaging sustainability and recycling in support of the food industry's efforts to reduce global food waste.

These new time-based commitments, along with an update of the company's ongoing efforts to improve environmental, governance and social measure, are highlighted in its 2017-18 Corporate Responsibility Report entitled “Better Packaging, Better Life — for a Better World.” 

Specifically, Sonoco set out key commitments for more sustainable use and increased recyclability of packaging by 2025, including:

  • Sonoco will increase the equivalent by weight, the amount it recycles, or causes to be recycled, from 75 percent to 85 percent, relative to the volume of packaging it places into the global marketplace.
  • Sonoco is committed to increasing the use of post-consumer recycled resins in its plastic packaging from 19 percent to 25 percent.
  • Sonoco will ensure that approximately 75 percent of its rigid plastic packaging can carry the relevant on-package recyclable claim.

In addition, Sonoco noted it will not use resin additives that purport to degrade in landfills or waterways by simply breaking up into smaller pieces. Finally, the company stressed it will ensure all of its production facilities are using plastic pellets and have systems to prevent discharges into the environment.

"Sonoco believes packaging plays an important role in protecting food from damage and spoilage, while extending shelf life at retail and home,” said Rob Tiede, president and CEO, in a statement. “In fact, greater adoption of food packaging technologies to prolong the shelf life of produce and proteins has the potential to divert 72,000 tons of food waste from landfills in the United States, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 329,000 tons per year."

Tiede pointed out that solving the food waste challenge requires the collective intellectual capital and collaboration of industry experts and thought leaders in food science, agriculture, horticulture, packaging, transportation and material science. In response to this challenge, Sonoco has committed $2.725 million to Clemson University to create a joint initiative called SonocoFRESH. Sonoco is also a joint development partner in the Plant City, Fla.-based robotics company Harvest CROO Robotics, which is focused on improving the supply chain for fresh produce by connecting harvesting technology with new packaging technology.

"Our mission is to deliver breakthroughs to help the entire packaging industry and ultimately have a major impact on reducing food waste, while increasing access to fresh, nutritional foods for millions of people," Tiede added. "Meeting this challenge requires a holistic approach to the entire lifecycle, and working to identify opportunities to reimagine process, science and technologies associated with harvesting, packaging, supply chain and consumer education and perception."

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