Nestlé commits to removing 250 million plastic Smarties packs a year in move to recyclable paper

A major move from Nestlé will see its core Smarties confectionery become the first global brand to achieve a key switch from plastic to recyclable paper packaging for its confectionery products worldwide, reports Neill Barston.

The initiative comes as the wider sector continues to make a sustained effort to improve sustainability of supply chains and responsible production measures, in light of significant environmental concerns raise over the environmental impact of discarded waste from food ranges.

Nestlé explained that its decision, which will remove 250 million plastic packs sold annually, builds on an initial exploration of 10% paper recycling, with the remaining 90% now due to be rolled-out in the UK by this April. It is part of its wider commitments on recycling to be achieved 100% across its full global operations by 2025.

The innovative new designs include sharing bags, multipacks and giant hexatubes made from coated paper, paper labels or carton board, all produced from sustainably sourced and recyclable material.

Speaking at a launch event for the move, Rob Cameron, Global Head of Public Affairs, for Nestlé said that the company would  ”have to go about changing our mindsets, and how we work with our customers. That will requires a shift on a part of our retail partners, so we our solutions can work within their environments,” explaining that the development was an important marker for the business in its delivering environmental impact improvements.

Notably, another significant issue was addressed by Bruce Funnell (pictured at the launch below), Packaging Lead at Nestlé’s UK facilities in York, who revealed that it was important that “in solving one problem it’s important we don’t create another” with regard to switching to paper use. He confirmed that the business will be working closely with its paper suppliers in order that its new packaging would be from sustainable sources, and explained that its paper supplies would be recycled several times over. He noted that its internal research had shown that the shelf-life of the Smarties range would not be impacted by the move to paper-based packaging.

He added that with a billion items sold per day, having consumer trust was of crucial importance, and was at the heart of its decision to further improving the environmental credentials of its packaging ranges. The Smarties range is produced from more than a dozen locations around the world, with its largest factory being in Hamburg, Germany.

Alexander von Maillot, Global Head of Confectionery at Nestlé, added he was proud that the company would be making the key recycling move. He said: “Moving Smarties packaging to recyclable paper is one of our key sustainable packaging initiatives in the confectionery category. It is a further step in realising Nestlé’s ambition to make all of our packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025 and to reduce our use of virgin plastics by one third in the same period.”

Furthermore, Louise Barrett, Head of the Nestlé Confectionery Product Technology Centre in York, explained that “Developing safe and convenient paper-based solutions for Smarties has required the pioneering of new materials and testing by Nestlé packaging experts at our R&D centre for confectionery in York and at the Swiss-based Institute of Packaging Sciences. We adapted our existing manufacturing lines to allow for the careful handling that is required for paper, while also ensuring recyclability across all new formats.”

The launch of the Smarties sharing block in a recyclable paper wrapper last year was an important step forward in the overall packaging transition. Now Smarties blocks are being relaunched with a brand new, playful mould and three delicious flavours. Available in milk chocolate and white chocolate featuring mini Smarties; and in orange flavoured chocolate featuring orange mini Smarties, the 90g blocks hit shops in February. The milk and orange varieties will be sold at major retailers and convenience stores, the white chocolate block will be available exclusively in ASDA stores.

Alberto Pisanello, Brand Manager for Smarties, said: “From paper multipacks to sharing bags, we’re delighted to be rolling out this innovative packaging across our Smarties range. We’re also excited to introduce our revamped range of paper-wrapped Smarties blocks. Featuring mini Smarties enveloped in delicious smooth milk, white or orange-flavoured chocolate, it’s Smarties reimagined.”

In other recent actions Nestlé has announced to introduce alternative and recyclable packaging materials include: Investing up to CHF 2 billion (£1.6 billion) to lead the shift from virgin plastics to food-grade recycled plastics and to accelerate the development of sustainable packaging solutions. The company has also signed up to the European Plastics Pact, which will help Nestlé achieve 100% recyclable or reusable packaging and reduce the use of virgin plastics by one third by 2025. Furthermore, it has also developed an  Institute of Packaging Sciences to evaluate and develop various sustainable packaging materials and to collaborate with industrial partners to develop new packaging materials and solutions.

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