Amanda Lang: World needs new way to dispose of plastic — or make less of it
The ketchup packet’s days could be numbered as Kraft Heinz Co. plans to overhaul its global packaging designs to find greener alternatives.
The Chicago-based food giant said Tuesday it will make 100 per cent of its packaging globally recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. Over the next seven years, the company will partner with experts, organizations and industry coalitions to develop alternative recycled materials in its packaging.
Kraft Heinz joins other consumer companies including Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Nestle SA and Colgate Palmolive that have set explicit deadlines to make their products more friendly to the environment. The goal could spell major changes for some of Kraft Heinz’s most well-known products, according to Caroline Krajewski, head of global corporate reputation.
Heinz ketchup packets, multi-laminate Capri Sun juice pouches and the packaging of individually wrapped Kraft Singles cheese can’t be easily recycled through regular municipal programs. Multi-laminate packaging uses both foil and plastic, which can’t be separated easily.
“Everything is on the table,” Krajewski said in an interview. “We have a tough road ahead of us on certain packaging types, and there are issues where we’ll have to band together with third parties and industry coalitions because no one of us can progress change in that area by ourselves.”
Both consumers and investors have pressed the company to overhaul its packaging in the past few years, Krajewski said. More than 13 per cent of shareholders supported an investor proposal at the annual meeting in April asking for a report on the recyclability of its packaging.
Kraft Heinz has shortened its list of products sold in ready-to-drink pouches and exceeded a goal to cut out 50,000 metric tons of packaging by optimizing its design for products such as the Kraft Easy Mac Cups, Krajewski said. The company is collecting data to build a baseline level of how much of its packaging is recyclable and compostable, and plans to disclose that information, she said.
Kraft Heinz isn’t sure yet how it will address non-recyclable and non-reusable packaging, like ketchup packets. Heinz redesigned the 50-year-old squeezable foil-and-plastic packet in 2010 to a larger “dip & squeeze” cup, which reduces waste but still can’t be recycled due to its film cover. New packaging will have to balance sustainability with requirements for food safety, shelf life, distribution, cost and appearance, Krajewski said.
Another option is developing a way to make the current packaging more recyclable or compostable.
"We’re really entering brand-new territory here," Krajewski said. "We now have this seven-year runway to create a new solution. Where a technical solution does not exist, we’ll need to find one."