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Vikas Vij headshot

Danone Striving for 100% Circular Packaging by 2025

By Vikas Vij

The circular economy model goes beyond the typical extractive industrial model of take-make-dispose with an aim to reduce dependence on finite resources and eliminate waste and pollution. Instead, this concept keeps materials and products in use and regenerates raw materials.

Reinforcing its commitment to the circular economy, global food giant Danone (whose North American CEO, Mariano Lozano, was the winner of Responsible CEO of the Year for Public Benefit Corporation at last week’s 3BL Forum) has announced a range of steps to ensure its packaging becomes 100 percent circular by 2025.

Danone plans to achieve this goal through improved product design, alternative delivery and reuse models, investing in systems for increased recycling and actions to preserve natural resources.

Packaging Designed for Circularity

Danone has committed that by 2025 all its packaging will be designed to be 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable. The company has pledged that it will also develop alternative models to eliminate unnecessary or problematic plastic packaging.

At present, 86 percent of Danone’s packaging is circular, and half of its water volumes are sold in reusable packaging. At evian, the company’s bottles are already 100 percent recyclable, and it is working on an innovation to eliminate shrink film for multipacks (which currently is non-recyclable).

Danone says the company also is planning to launch alternatives to single-use and plastic packaging in all its major water markets by 2025. It is also evaluating alternative solutions to replace plastic straws through a pilot program to be launched in Indonesia in 2019.

Circular Model in Practice

Circular design alone is not enough to make packaging 100 percent circular. Danone says it recognizes that effective systems for collection and recycling are required to ensure that packaging gets reused, recycled or composted in practice.

Danone also recognizes that design won't be enough to make its packaging fully circular. Effective collection and recycling systems are essential to ensuring packaging is recycled, reused or composted in practice.

To meet this goal, the company insists that it plans to go beyond the regulatory collection targets (such as the minimum 90 percent collection target for beverage bottles to be imposed in 2025 by the EU). Danone will support proven collection and recycling systems, such as Deposit Return Scheme and Extended Producer Responsibility, as needed.

By 2025, the company aims to launch or support initiatives for collection and recycling in all of its top 20 markets (that represent about 90 percent of its sales). It has already invested $5.25 million in the Closed Loop Fund, an initiative to develop sustainable manufacturing technologies and large scale recycling infrastructure in the US.

Preserving Natural Resources

To achieve transition to a circular economy of packaging, companies must commit to discontinuing any use of packaging from finite resources. This commitment helps preserve natural resources and keep the existing packaging materials in use. Recycling is a key strategy here.

Danone is using 14 percent of recycled PET on average in its water and other beverage bottles. It plans to increase the recycled content to 50 percent by 2025. The company’s evian brand already includes 30 percent recycled plastic on average, and aims to reach 100 percent by 2025.

Collaborating to Combat Waste and Pollution

Danone claims the company is fostering new alliances at global as well as local level to achieve its circular economy goals. The company will be joining hands with other organizations, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program and like-minded organizations to take on challenges related to plastic waste and pollution.

"We believe the time is now to step up and accelerate, embrace our responsibility and work with others to engage a radical shift that will help free the world from packaging waste,” said Emmanuel Faber, Chairman and CEO of Danone. “We will be acting both at global and local level to ensure circularity of packaging becomes the new norm,” he said.

Image credit: Danone

Vikas Vij headshot

Vikas is an MBA with 25 years of managerial and entrepreneurial experience. He is the author of “The Power of Money” (Scholars, 2003), a book that presents a revolutionary monetary economic theory on poverty alleviation in the developing world. Vikas runs a digital content development company, and personally loves to write on global sustainability issues.

Read more stories by Vikas Vij