According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 311 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year, the equivalent of more than 900 Empire State Buildings. Annually, 8 million tonnes of this plastic enters the oceans. Packaging is a considerable contributor to this issue; however, it also plays an important role in food quality, safety and reducing food waste.
Nigel Hughes, senior vice president of global research and development at Kellogg Company, is responsible for leading a team that looks at how packaging can protect Kellogg's foods, deliver the quality people expect and support a more sustainable future. Here, he has provided an update on how Kellogg is progressing toward its global packaging goal.
“At Kellogg, we're wasting no time in working toward our goal of using 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by the end of 2025,” said Hughes in a statement. “Our goal aligns to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which we were among just a handful of food companies to sign on to in 2018. Doing so is part of our global Kellogg's Better Days commitment to create better days for 3 billion people around the world by addressing the interrelated issues of food security, climate resiliency and well-being.”
“Already, more than 97 percent of our timber-based packaging that goes into cereal and other boxes comes from either recycled or certified-sustainable content,” he added. “And we're speeding up our efforts. For example, although plastic packaging is just one part of our overall packaging mix, we've already ensured that 32 percent of what we use globally is recyclable. And we have many projects in the works to ensure that we achieve our 2025 sustainable packaging goal.”
Around the world, the company’s approach to reducing waste with more sustainable packaging includes three tenets:
- EXCLUDE certain items and materials
- REDUCE packaging across the portfolio
- REDESIGN packaging to be recyclable or compostable
“In 2018, we transitioned to compostable paper foodservice products in all our plants and offices … no more plastic and no more single-use foam,” said Hughes. “In our U.S. operations in Illinois and Michigan alone, we diverted 2 million pieces of silverware, 105,000 straws and 110,000 bottles from landfill every year. We're also removing the plastic spoons from our joyböl granola smoothies. Once this is complete, no Kellogg food packaging will use plastic forks, knives, straws, stirrers, polystyrene or oxo-degradable plastic.”
Over the years, the company has significantly reduced the amount of material in its cereal boxes and other packages. Kellogg also has reduced flap sizes, eliminated excess air and introduced other innovations to make packaging better for the environment.
“Currently, we have some instances where we bulk ship cereal in reusable bins from the production facility to the final destination where it is packed into pouches or bag-in-box packages,” explained Hughes. “This happens with our granolas and cereals in multiple regions. In Africa, India, China and Australia, we've significantly reduced packaging using this approach.”
In Europe, Kellogg redesigned its cereal pouches to use recycle-ready material, eliminating approximately 480 tonnes of non-recyclable packaging each year.
In the United States, Bear Naked recently launched new, store drop-off, recycle-ready packaging for its granolas and granola bites. The new packaging includes a "Store Drop-Off" logo and website link to help people find a nearby recycle drop-off location. All Bear Naked granolas and Bites varieties will adopt this packaging going forward. The company has also had similar success in the U.S. reducing packaging in its MorningStar Farms veggie foods by moving to resealable bags. As an added benefit, the bags help fight freezer burn, which reduces food waste.
“Most importantly, we're looking at breakthrough packaging innovation by considering sustainability right from the start,” said Hughes. “We're excited about the opportunities to deliver for people, our customers and the planet.”
Recycling Via Partnerships and New Technologies
Kellogg also is encouraging more recycling and partnering on new technologies. For example:
“In Australia, we include the Redcycle logo on our cereal bags,” according to Hughes. “At the Redcycle website, people can easily find the location of their nearest drop-off location. A similar effort is underway in the U.S., where we include the How2Recycle label on most of our packages.”
In the U.K., Pringles launched a partnership with TerraCycle to collect and recycle its cans. And in Malaysia, the company’s local waste collector converts rejected Pringles cans into corrugated paper.
In Mexico, Kellogg is piloting a project to replace PET packaging with material that can more easily be crushed into pellets and recycled.
Kellogg India is piloting an innovative project with waste management company Nepra Environmental Solutions in Pune, Maharashtra. Together, they’re developing a system to collect and dispose of multilayer plastic (MLP) waste. Nepra purchases MLP from the local waste sorting workers and turns it into fuel for cement kilns.
“More than 110 years ago, the very first box of Kellogg's cereal was created with recycled content,” concluded Hughes. “So, using sustainable packaging is part of our DNA. Today, the people of Kellogg are proud to be taking this commitment to the next level. While we don't have all the solutions, we're hard at work researching, collaborating with partners and piloting new approaches to keeping our foods safe and fresh while also protecting the planet. You can learn more about our efforts in our newly published 2019 Global Sustainable Packaging Milestones.”