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Rachel Goldstein, North America Policy Director, Mars
Packaging sustainability is a huge focus for our team here at Mars who are rethinking our approach to create a world where packaging doesn't become waste. After all, packaging plays a vital role in delivering high quality products to consumers – from protecting ingredients as they travel from farms to factories and finished products to customers and consumers, to preserving freshness and conveying important nutrition and health information.
Packaging materials have steadily migrated to flexible plastic for many reasons ranging from price, functionality, consumer preference and sustainability considerations. This flexible, light-weight packaging is extremely material efficient by reducing the amount of material needed to protect the product.But it also poses real challenges in collecting, sorting and ultimately getting recycled. Policy plays a critical role in unlocking solutions.
At Mars we have set ambitious goals to reduce the amount of packaging we use, to pilot reuse models where appropriate and for packaging we need to be 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. We know that we have a responsibility to play our part through a continued focus on packaging design and innovation, but it is not that simple– because the recycling infrastructure is beyond our direct control. This is a challenge for us, and many others in the industry, as the flexible plastic we use to preserve quality and ensure food safety can’t currently be recycled at scale.
"Packaging materials have steadily migrated to flexible plastic for many reasons ranging from price, functionality, consumer preference and sustainability considerations"
What policies can help us unlock solutions?
First, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), is an effective policy tool to bring needed investment into recycling infrastructure to improve collecting and sorting systems. In the U.S, we’re working alongside the Circular Economy Accelerator (CEA) and the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance (SFPA) at both the state and federal levelssharing our EPR principles and with civil society groups like Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the OneSource Coalition.We want to make sure that revenues generated from EPR are invested in the development of solutions to complex packaging needs such as improving access to recycling and transforming recycling systems to create a truly circular economy.
Oregon and Maine have now signed EPR bills into law. We hope to continue to engage with policy makers on the implementation of EPR across the U.S. and to work with the FDA to build the supply of recycled content that is suitable for food contact.
Second, we must create a policy environment that supports all recycling technologies, from the mechanical recycling processes we use today to advanced recycling technologies such as pyrolysis. Scaling advanced recycling technologies will allow for the recycling of hard to recycle materials and for recycling systems that produce food-safe recycled material that food and beverage manufacturers need.
We recognize that our collective goals will only be met through systemic change and collaboration including action from businesses, innovators, non-profits and policymakers alike. In doing so, we can achieve the implementation of effective policy and ensure that meaningful investment and scaling of infrastructure investments do not adversely impact the environment or disadvantaged populations to create a future without packaging waste.