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Our packaging sustainability strategy



From now until 2025, we will accelerate and expand the work already undertaken to achieve a 20% reduction in emissions. Between 2025 and 2030, we will transform our operations to achieve a 50% reduction of emissions. And finally, from 2030 to 2050, we will work to balance our emissions by exploring how we offset any remaining emissions through high-quality carbon removal projects or innovation, the result of which will be net zero emissions.

We have set new commitments to achieve 100% reusable or recyclable packaging by 2025 and to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.



Our progress toward more sustainable packaging

86.8 %
80 %
8.1 %

What is Nestlé doing to tackle plastic packaging waste?

Our vision is that none of our packaging, including plastics, ends up in landfill, oceans, lakes and rivers. We are working hard to deliver on it and help to achieve a waste-free future.

We remain committed to designing 100% of our plastic packaging for recycling. By 2025, we expect that 95% of it will be.  To date, 86.8% of our total packaging is already recyclable or reusable. Out of this, 80% of our plastic packaging is designed for recycling in dedicated recycling facilities - but we know we have more work to do. As the world's largest food and beverage company, our actions matter, and we are committed to putting our size and scale to work. 

We are on track to reduce our use of virgin plastics in packaging by one third by 2025 and are pioneering alternative packaging materials to facilitate recycling. We have already achieved a reduction of 8.1% as of year-end 2021. Packaging plays an important role in safely delivering high-quality food and drinks to consumers, and in reducing food loss and waste. We need to consider alternatives carefully before making changes to packaging, whether plastic, paper, metal, or glass. 

We have made strong progress in taking voluntary actions under our control, and we support governments in accelerating infrastructure development. This includes supporting the development of well-functioning collection, sorting and recycling schemes wherever we operate, and scaling up reusable and refillable alternatives where possible. 

Our ambition is to use less packaging and better packaging, and to help build a better system for collection and materials recovery. 

We also are working with value chain partners, industry associations and the civil society to explore different packaging concepts to shape a waste-free future. Such system-wide change takes time, but we are committed to creating a world without waste and delivering on the commitments we have made to achieve this.

Improving consumer information is also vital, and we’re committed to helping improve it by labeling our product packaging with recycling information – to help ensure it is disposed of in the right way. We are determined to look at every option to solve these complex challenges and embrace multiple solutions that can have an impact now and in the future.

Why do you use plastic in your packaging?

Our packaging plays a key role in protecting food, preventing food waste and ensuring the quality and safety of our products, so we need to carefully consider alternatives before making changes. We use a range of materials, including glass, metal, paper and plastics.

Plastics offer a unique combination of malleability, availability, hygiene and safety, making them ideal packaging materials. We use the minimum adequate amount of plastic packaging to pack products safely and aim to support the recovery of plastic at the end of its useful life.


How much plastic packaging did Nestlé use in 2021?

We have moved beyond peak virgin plastic (“new” plastic, used for the first time) packaging, even while our business continues to grow. Nestlé’s total plastics packaging usage in 2021 was just under 1 million metric tons, amounting to a reduction of 35% by weight since 2019. This represents approximately a quarter of the total packaging we use across our businesses. 

Our ambition is to reduce the unnecessary amount of packaging and virgin materials in our products without compromising the product integrity and align with consumers expectations; strong contributor to eliminate plastics and dependency on fossil virgin plastic.

We will do this by moving to paper for ice cream primary packaging and secondary bags for other categories. We will also phase out shrink wrap and stretch film. Our Fit-for-Purpose projects will be the engine of plastics elimination at Nestlé because we are committed to reducing our use of virgin plastic by one third versus 2019 by 2025.

How is Nestlé reducing its plastic usage?

Our ambition is to convert the full portfolio of SKUs to the new packaging designed for recycling. This is the first mandatory step towards our commitment to achieve 100% of our packaging recyclable or reusable and we expect 95% of this to be done by 2025. Enabled by the Research and Development (R&D) pipeline of pioneer materials discovered by the Nestlé Institute of Packaging Science (NIPS) and the development of innovative packaging solutions by Nestlé Product Technology Centres (NPTCs), aligned with the Nestlé rules of sustainable packaging.

We also aim to reduce plastic packaging by 33% by 2025. We have developed a plastic reduction roadmap in 2019 with more than 100 projects phased over the years up to 2025. The projects completed in 2021 and 2022 have already resulted in a reduction of plastic usage of 700 tons each year.

The projects already implemented include Fit for Purpose packaging size optimisation, light weighting of stretch and shrink wrap films, light weighting of infant formula plastic spoons, and light weighting of plastic snap on caps for metal cans.

Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation (Polyco)

What does Polyco do?

Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation (Polyco), a not-for-profit industry body that was established in 2011 to focus on reducing the amount of used polyolefin plastic packaging waste going to landfill and ending plastic waste in the environment. Polyco aims to make waste a valuable resource that works for our economy by increasing the sustainable collection, recycling, recovery, and beneficiation of polyolefin plastic packaging.

Why this partnership?

Addressing sustainability challenges cannot be resolved without collaboration and it therefore becomes important to work with like-minded partners like Polyco. Read more.

polyco image

How are you phasing-out non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle plastics?

Elimination of single use plastics is also a very high priority for Nestlé, and we have already changed the Milo ready to drink plastic straw to paper in 2020.

Using latest technology paper wrapping materials, Nestlé R&D have supported Nestlé South Africa to change the Smarties chocolate bar and Smarties fun bags to paper, eliminating an additional 12 tons of plastic packaging each year. 

The use of recycled plastic is one of the strategies for achieving virgin plastic reduction targets. This also supports the circular economy, creating demand for used packaging and providing incentive for collection and the development of the recycling infrastructure for plastic waste. Although there is a worldwide undersupply of food grade recycled materials, we are doing development work with our packaging suppliers to start using recycled plastic resins in our plastic packaging.

We have a number of high-volume recycled material projects planned for 2024 and 2025, in anticipation of increased availability of food grade recycled resins.

NESTLÉ SMARTIES Recyclable Paper Packaging

We are actively contributing towards the sustainability of the environment. The move to 100% recyclable paper packaging, made us the first global confectionery brand to implement this change. This exciting partnership seeks to repurpose waste material into exquisite origami art pieces. Read the full press release.


How are you developing alternative materials?

In our region, our objective is for all of our plastic packaging to be designed for recycling by 2025. With the changes we have already implemented, our current status in 2022 is 82% of all plastic packaging being designed for recycling. We have plans in place for changing the remaining packaging to Designed for Recycling (D4R) before the end of 2025. 

Technology is available for high barrier sustainable laminates, which is required for some Nestlé product. Nestlé R&D are working on optimising design of laminates to match current machine speeds and to reduce the thickness of these D4R materials, as there are instances where thicker plastic materials are required to match the barrier properties of aluminum and Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) layers, rendering these laminates non-recyclable. 

These thicker laminates which can match current shelf-life durations are in opposition to the plastic reduction objective, but research and development work is in progress to manufacture optimised sustainable laminate structures which give good barrier properties at minimum plastic weight.

What are you doing to increase your use of recycled plastics?

Globally, our overall recycled plastic content use is currently 5%. Additionally, we use more than 12% recycled content in our PET water bottles today. We are committed to increasing the proportion of recycled content we use in our packaging and continue to explore all opportunities to create and obtain sufficient volumes of food- grade quality recycled content. 

We also want to reduce our use of virgin plastics, therefore we want to source food-grade recycled plastics and drive higher recycling rates with that.

You said that you were keen to 'create a market for food-grade recycled plastics' – what does this mean?

We are keen to increase our share of recycled food-grade plastics. But recycled food-grade plastics come in limited supply. The economics of plastic recycling are complex, but in nutshell, it’s cheaper today for plastic manufacturers to produce virgin plastics than it is to produce food-grade recycled plastics. Our plastic suppliers need to receive financial assurances to make the leap.

What do you mean by the 'simplification' of packaging?

The simplification of packaging is important to help improve its recyclability. In order to simplify our packaging materials and packaging structures we have developed and circulated to suppliers a set of 'Golden Rules (pdf, 700Kb)' for the design and development of our packaging.

There are rules that apply to all packaging:

  •     Optimise the environmental performance of the packed product
  •     Optimise weight and volume of primary, secondary and transport packaging
  •     Use maximum possible recycled content
  •     Consider locally available infrastructure and technology
  •     Prepare appropriate disposal and/or recovery communication

The following rules apply specifically to plastics and coated paper:

  •     Do not use oxo-degradable plastics unless obliged by law
  •     Consider bio-based content for packaging
  •     Do not use polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC), polystyrene (PS), Expanded polystyrene (EPS)
  •     Prefer transparent or lightly tinted material, avoid carbon-based masterbatches
  •     Ensure residual products can be easily removed

How will you help develop plastics collection, sorting and recycling schemes?

To address the global issue of plastic packaging waste effectively, we must work collaboratively with industry, local and national governments, civil society and consumers to create systems solutions. We aim to do our part. Too often, plastic packaging lacks a dedicated collection system, is not disposed of properly or cannot be recycled.

We are determined to change this, which is why we are taking action to make our own packaging recyclable, support improving waste collection systems, using new types of packaging and helping make recycling the easy thing to do. As part of this approach, Nestlé aims to take an active role in supporting governments in the development of well-functioning collection, sorting and recycling schemes across the countries where we operate.

Nestlé has been supporting Extended Producer Responsibility for metal and plastic packaging for the last three years, with membership of Producer Responsibility Organisations and fees paid assisting with development of collection and recycling of these packaging materials.

Since November 2021, EPR is now compulsory, and Nestlé has joined Producer Responsibility Organisations (PRO) for the remaining packaging types, glass, paper, and electronic goods. The role of the PROs is to support the collection and recycling of packaging materials, so through representation on PRO boards, memberships, and fees paid, Nestlé is actively participating in structured development of the collection and recycling of our packaging materials, resulting in the reduction of packaging going into landfills and into the environment.  

What are you doing about plastic water bottles?

Regarding our plastic bottles, we are increasing the amount of recycled PET we use across our brands globally to 50% by 2025, by incorporating Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (rPET) into our bottles where it is technically and economically feasible. Over the past 10 years, we have reduced by 22% the quantity of PET needed for each liter of bottled water we produce. This supports our aim is to reduce the use of virgin plastics by one third by 2025.

How can you help consumers recycle product packaging correctly?

We are committed to raising awareness and informing our consumers about the right way to dispose and recycle our product packaging, including by on-pack labeling. Consumers have a vital role to play in improving recycling rates and we will engage them through educational campaigns on responsible consumer behavior. We will do this through our brands and through our corporate communications channels.

What about micro-plastics in bottled water?

Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than 5mm long that we can find everywhere – in the air we breathe, in the food we eat and in the water.

At Nestlé, consumer safety is our top priority, and we have tested our products for micro-plastics since 2015 using state-of-the-art devices and techniques.

So far, our testing has not detected micro-plastics beyond trace level in our food and beverages.

We welcome further research on the possible effects of micro-plastic consumption on human health and are happy to offer our expertise to improve understanding of this issue.

Why is waste reduction important for Nestlé?

Packaging helps protect food and beverages, ensures product quality and safety, communicates nutritional information and prevents food waste.

However, these essential requirements should not come at the expense of the planet. That's why we are continually developing more sustainable packaging and committed to reducing waste from packaging.

Our vision is ambitious: a world in which none of Nestlé's packaging, including plastics, ends up in landfill or as litter.

In particular, we are doing our best to reduce our plastic waste by increasing our use of recycled plastic, reducing our use of new plastic, and helping create circular systems that make it easier to collect, recycle and reuse these products.

We expect 95% of our packaging to be designed for recycling by 2025 and remain committed to achieving 100%. We are also reducing the use of newly made plastic - or virgin plastic - by one third by 2025.

To tackle the complex and global challenges of food waste and loss, we consider our own operations, collaborate with industry peers and educate consumers to make sure more food gets from field to table.

Sustainability report 2022