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World Earth Day: planet vs plastic and the role we have to play

Redefining our relationship with plastic for a sustainable future

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Every year on April the 22nd, World Earth Day serves as a poignant reminder of our collective responsibility to safeguard our planet and its resources. This year, under the theme, “Planet vs Plastic”, the focus is on urgent action to combat plastic pollution and chart a course towards a more sustainable world.

The scale of the plastic crisis is staggering. According to, more plastic has been produced in the last decade than in the entire 20th century combined, underscoring the pressing need for change. However, amidst this global challenge, there are signs of progress.

On a positive note, the plastic pollution in South Africa is on the decline. The SA Plastics Pact’s inaugural report in 2023, revealed a decline in plastic waste, with a notable 43.2% recycling rate in 2020, including a 35.4% rate for plastic packaging alone. This achievement is bolstered by the burgeoning recycling industry, which provides vital employment opportunities to thousands of reclaimers nationwide.

One standout initiative is Nestlé’s RE programme, exemplified by the RE-Imagine Tomorrow project in partnership with waste reclaimers from Tembisa. Together, they collected over 80 tons of plastic waste, which was repurposed into outdoor bins in the community. Such endeavours have propelled South Africa’s recycling rates well above the global average.

Aligned with World Earth Day's vision of a 60% reduction in plastic production by 2040, Nestlé has spearheaded various initiatives to curb virgin plastic consumption. In 2023, the company integrated 30% recycled plastic into all shrink film, slashing virgin plastic usage by 190 tons annually. Additionally, Nestlé achieved a 50% reduction in pallet wrapping across its factories, resulting in a further 115-ton plastic packaging reduction per year.

In a bid to enhance recyclability, Nestlé revamped the packaging of NESTLÉ NESPRAY sachets, opting for a laminate compatible with recycling processes. This strategic shift promises a significant reduction of 78 tons in packaging material destined for landfills.

Mark Helfrich, Packaging Engineering Manager at Nestlé East and Southern Africa, emphasises the company's commitment to circular principles through projects like "Fit for Purpose." By minimising packaging material through innovation and optimisation, Nestlé is actively mitigating its environmental footprint.

An illustrative example is the 2022 lightweighting project, where the plastic spoons in Infant Formula cans underwent a redesign, resulting in a remarkable 60% weight reduction. This initiative, supported by new equipment investments, translates to an annual plastic reduction of 93 tons.

Beyond corporate efforts, individuals play a pivotal role in combatting plastic pollution. Simple lifestyle changes, such as opting for reusable cloth bags, purchasing bulk goods, and prioritizing glass or steel containers over plastic, can significantly reduce plastic consumption. Education also remains paramount in fostering a culture of sustainability.

As we mark World Earth Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to a plastic-free future for generations to come. Together, we can effect meaningful change and preserve the beauty of our planet for future inhabitants.

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Nestlé East and Southern African Region (ESAR)
Lesedi Mashale
Head: Public Relations & Events
Tel: +27 73 708 3269 
Email: [email protected]

Issued by Weber Shandwick on behalf of Nestlé East and Southern Africa Region
Matlhodi Mathabatha
Senior Account Manager
Tel: +27 73 357 8133
Email: [email protected]

About Nestlé 
Nestlé is the world’s largest food and beverage company. It is present in 187 countries around the world, and its 291,000 employees are committed to Nestlé’s purpose of unlocking the power of food to enhance quality for everyone, today and for generations to come. Nestlé offers a wide portfolio of products and services for people and their pets throughout their lives. Its more than 2,000 brands range from global icons like Nescafé or Nespresso to local favourites like Ricoffy. Company performance is driven by its Nutrition, Health, and Wellness strategy. Nestlé is based in the Swiss town of Vevey where it was founded more than 150 years ago.