Pepsi pledges to halve unrecycled plastic in packaging by 2030

Caroline Champlin Sep 15, 2021
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PepsiCo is increasing the recycled content of its packaging. Younger consumers are paying attention to the environmental impact of the products they consider buying, analysts say. Tim Boyle via Getty Images

Pepsi pledges to halve unrecycled plastic in packaging by 2030

Caroline Champlin Sep 15, 2021
Heard on:
PepsiCo is increasing the recycled content of its packaging. Younger consumers are paying attention to the environmental impact of the products they consider buying, analysts say. Tim Boyle via Getty Images
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COPY

Pepsi came out with new sustainability goals Wednesday as part of an initiative called pep+, or PepsiCo Positive.

The company said it wants to use recycled materials in half of its plastic packaging. Pepsi plans to halve its use of “virgin” plastic, which is not made from recycled goods. The company is giving itself until 2030 to do it all.

Oceanworks is a recycled plastic wholesaler that gathers up used plastic, including some found in the ocean, per CEO Vanessa Coleman.

“You can imagine this waste plastic coming into a processing plant. It comes in bales of bottles,” she said.

It gets ground up into flakes, then melted into a plastic noodle. That gets cut into pellets and sold to companies, like Clorox, which uses pellets in some plastic bags.

That matters to customers, Coleman said.

“The Gen Z millennials are looking to buy more sustainable. And what that means is they’re paying attention to the ingredients that go into their products,” she said.

The burden of recycling has shifted from consumers to companies, said Yale researcher Reid Lifset. “My hypothesis is that the industry sees that that public concern has not gone away,” he said.

But are there even enough plastic recyclers around to serve big companies like Pepsi?

“It’s a great question because … a lot has to change,” Lifset said.

That would include more bottle-redemption centers and better curbside collection systems. Professor Kate O’Neill of the University of California, Berkeley, agrees.

“It will come at a cost too,” she said. “I mean, it’s not cheap to recycle plastic to a reusable state.”

Pepsi has to balance those expenses with the cost of losing customers, said Rabobank beverage analyst Jim Watson. “It’s the least-favored beverage packaging right now, the one with the worst connotations behind it.”

It’ll be down to consumers and investors, Watson said, to keep Pepsi’s changes on track.

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