How Nestlé sourced 100% recycled bottles

Nestlé UK has partnered with waste management firm Biffa to source 100% recycled British plastic for all its Buxton water bottles.

Biffa’s £27.5m plastic recycling facility in County Durham will supply Nestlé Waters’ factory in Buxton from 2021.

Michel Beneventi, managing director for Nestlé Waters UK, said: “Having access to a local recycled PET [polyethylene terephthalate] supply reduces the carbon footprint of producing, sourcing and transporting our packaging from outside the UK and demonstrates the value that plastic drinks bottles have when they are recycled.”

Sourcing 100% recycled PET packaging for Buxton water has been an ongoing “challenge” for the company. Jez McInerny, head of supply chain, said: “Due to the lack of capacity domestically of high quality, food grade PET this challenge has been hard to achieve.”

He said the collaboration would benefit both parties, help increase the UK’s capacity to recycle PET, and enable Nestlé to close the loop on bottle-to-bottle recycling within the UK.

The Biffa recycling plant was set up in January and can process the equivalent of 1.3bn plastic bottles each year. The firm aims to quadruple its plastic recycling by 2030.

This will cut the amount of virgin plastic in circulation “and lead the shift to using high-quality food-grade recycled PET in the UK”, which is currently sourced from Europe. 

The initiative aligned with Nestlé Water’s commitment to reach carbon neutral across all brands by 2025, collect as many bottles as it produces globally by 2030, and contribute to Nestlé’s goal to cut the use of virgin plastics by one third by 2025.

Beneventi said: “This is a hugely significant step forwards in achieving our commitment of making our Buxton range from 100% recycled PET. By working together, sharing expertise across our companies to advance PET recycling for circularity.”

Chris Hanlon, commercial manager at Biffa Polymers, said: “At Biffa, a key pillar of our sustainability strategy is to help build a circular economy in the UK, part of which is to help our customers develop sustainable packaging that can fit into the closed-loop recycling system that we are working to develop. 

“The collaboration with Nestlé Waters UK is a great example of this strategy in action, using recycled plastic to manufacture plastic bottles for resale.”

Helen Bird, strategic engagement manager at WRAP, commented: “We are very pleased to see two of our UK Plastics Pact members embracing the spirit of collaboration on which the pact is founded. It is only by working together, across the supply chain, that we can reduce our reliance on virgin plastics and bring an end to plastic pollution.”

Meanwhile, consumer organisation Which? called on the government to make labeling for recyclable packaging “simple, clear and mandatory”, following a study on top UK food brands, such as Pringles and Cadbury, which revealed a lack of recyclable packaging.  

The study assessed 10 different categories of items, including chocolate, fizzy drinks, crisps, for how “easily” they could be recycled. Around a third of chocolate packaging was unrecyclable, but all fizzy drinks could be recycled, according to Which?.

It also found that only 34% had fully recyclable packaging, while 41% had no labeling for it.

Pringles packaging was “notoriously hard to recycle”, and Cathedral and Babybel plastic bags were highlighted as “difficult to recycle” and damaging to recycling machines.

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