PepsiCo on recycled content: "We are willing to pay the right price"

PepsiCo’s Senior Director for packaging
sustainability in Europe, Archana Jagannathan
10.11.2020 − 

The food and beverage company PepsiCo has announced that it will use only 100 per cent rPET in the single-use bottles for its beverages on the German, Austrian and Swiss markets. EUWID spoke with Archana Jagannathan, PepsiCo’s Senior Director for packaging sustainability in Europe, about the concern’s motivation for switching to 100 per cent recycled PET for its single-use bottles, about the plastic recycling market – and about why we need minimum recycled content requirements for plastic products.

Ms Jagannathan, PepsiCo has announced that it will only use 100 percent rPET bottles for beverages sold in Germany, Austria and Switzerland by the end of 2021. Why is PepsiCo taking this step now? Why was this step not taken years ago?

Sustainability is a really key topic for all stakeholders today and the pace of change we have seen in the past decade in the ambition and innovation in waste management is huge. Two years ago, we had concerns around sufficient rPET capacity in the market. However, in the last two years our decision to focus on the environment and sustainability has accelerated our plans. We have worked with our suppliers to ensure that carbonated beverages can now be filled 100 percent in rPET through more stringent qualification programs and an innovation drive. Capacity continues to be a challenge in many parts of Europe; given the good quality of the raw material we source from our suppliers, including the German deposit system and the capacity we have created in recent years to recycle this into food grade rPET, we are confident that we will achieve our targets.

PET recyclers complain that they cannot find buyers for their product. Profit margin always wins out over environmental concerns, they say. What’s wrong with the market?

The market is all about quality. What we see is demand from companies like ourselves outstrips supply in the market for high-quality, food-grade rPET. Obviously, getting to this high quality standard that companies like us expect involves some investment from recyclers in the processing capacity and quality processes vs. downcycling of the material into non food-grade applications, where I cannot comment on the demand-supply economics as I’m not as familiar with it. All I can say is we are working closely with recyclers who are setting up high-quality, food-grade capacity and will continue doing so. And as I mentioned before, we are willing to pay the right price for this, as the health and safety of our consumers is the most important for us.

The full interview with Ms Jaganathan was published in the 23/2020 print and e-paper edition of EUWID Recycling and Waste Management on 11 November 2020.

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