Amazon, Nestlé, Lego's latest initiatives in sustainable packaging


Amazon has announced the use of 100% recyclable shipping packaging across its European network

Amazon has announced that 100% of its delivery packaging in Europe - the cartons, bags and envelopes needed to deliver products to customers - is now recyclable. This includes items sold by Amazon and third-party sales partners that use Amazon Logistics (FBA).

All orders customers now receive are packed in soft paper bags, paper envelopes and corrugated boxes, and all of these can be recycled in household recycling across Europe. Amazon said the number of products shipped in Europe last year without any additional Amazon packaging also increased by more than 50 percent. These combined moves mean the company estimates it has avoided more than 1 billion single-use plastic delivery bags in its European distribution network since 2019.

Amazon is working with suppliers to increase the number of products delivered in easy-to-open, original packaging made of cardboard and paper that is recyclable and can be shipped to customers without the need for additional Amazon bags or cartons. Products are shipped with only an address tag added. When packaging is still required, the company aims to use lighter, appropriately sized packaging to reduce waste and carbon while ensuring the product arrives safely.

Pat Lindner, vice-president of mechatronics and sustainable packaging at Amazon, said: "We are delighted that our European delivery network is now using recyclable packaging for customer orders. This is part of our long-term work to become a sustainability leader as we continue to invest in innovative technologies, machine learning and more sustainable materials to ensure that the packaging used, whether by us or others, benefits our customers, communities and the planet."

In addition to piloting soft paper envelopes made using only paper and reusable delivery bags in Europe, Amazon is also offering incentives to encourage sales partners to reduce packaging throughout the value chain. For each shipment that requires packaging, Amazon uses its in-house staff to determine the type and size of packaging required. Machine learning helps the company determine which smaller products are suitable for flexible packaging with smaller footprints, such as paper bags.

Amazon says the algorithms have reduced the use of cardboard boxes by more than 35 percent over the past five years. Amazon also uses algorithms to help its distribution centers maintain the right mix of box sizes and reduce shipping packaging for multiple items. The company is also the co-founder and first signatory of the Climate Pledge, which has committed to net zero carbon by 2040. As part of this goal, Amazon aims to be 100 percent renewable in its operations by 2025, and its global delivery fleet already has more than 9,000 electric delivery vehicles.

As early as May 2022, nearly 49% of Amazon's stock was voted in favor of the retailer addressing plastic use at its annual shareholder meeting, according to Oceana. Meanwhile, a report shows that Amazon generated about 709 million pounds of plastic waste through e-commerce sales in 2021, 18% more than the estimated 599 million pounds in 2020.

The company has since made a series of announcements related to changes to its packaging portfolio, such as the trial of automated packaging machines for customizing paper bags on demand to reduce packaging volume and weight, and to encourage brands to deliver goods in their original packaging, thus eliminating the need for additional packaging during delivery. In fact, in a conversation with the European Packaging Association earlier this year on European Union packaging and packaging waste regulations, Amazon focused primarily on the European Union's ability to "combat excessive packaging and waste in online sales through such legislative measures".

Nestlé invests in opening a new flexible plastic packaging recycling plant

Nestlé is investing £7 million in Impact Recycling's new recycling plant, which will turn hard-to-recycle flexible plastics into pellets to produce new flexible packaging. Located in Durham, England, the plant will use a process called the Baffle Oscillation Separation System (BOSS). This involves sorting waste plastics by spinning them in water, where different densities of the material cause them to sink or float, simplifying the separation of different flexible substances.

These plastics, in turn, will be converted into pellets for use in the production of flexible plastics in areas such as construction and agriculture. Mail bags, garbage bags and garbage bags are listed as the intended end products. Upon opening, the plant is expected to provide 25,000 tonnes of capacity, which is expected to exceed the amount of soft plastic packaging Nestlé has put on the market in the UK and Ireland. Collection points will be set up in major supermarkets to collect Nestlé cereal bags, KitKat wrappers, Purina pet food bags, Rowntree candy sharing bags and other flexible packaging for recycling.

In addition to funding from Innovate UK, the £7 million loan from Nestlé is expected to help expand Innovate UK's recycling process. The site is scheduled to be operational by late summer 2024. Sohna Gay, Nestlé's head of packaging for the UK and Ireland, said: "I am delighted to be working with Impact Recycling to fund this new facility in Durham. At Nestlé, we are committed to ensuring that our packaging has multiple lifetimes and does not end up as waste in landfill. Supporting innovative technologies like this is just one of the many steps we are taking to make this happen.

"In the UK and Ireland, we continue to work hard to ensure that our packaging designs are close to 100% recyclable by 2025, and we will continue to work hard to make all packaging recyclable or reusable. It's great to see our packaging get a second life, and we're looking for a number of partners to help encourage collection and recycling infrastructure in the UK," said Sohner Guy.

David Walsh, chief executive of Impact Recycling, continued: "We are delighted to be working with Nestlé to develop a commercial recycling plant for 25,000 tonnes of post-consumer flexible plastics. This development would not have been possible without Nestlé's funding. With this funding, Nestlé is demonstrating its strong commitment to innovation and the pursuit of sustainable solutions for plastic packaging."

Paul Davidson, Director of Innovate UK's Smart Sustainable Plastics Packaging Challenge, added: "We are delighted to be supporting the project to drive innovation to improve the UK's ability to recycle flexible plastic packaging, a priority area for the Smart Sustainable Plastics Packaging Challenge, and the facility is a big step towards achieving the UK's Plastics Convention goals."

Lego accelerates the pace of replacing plastic with paper

The LEGO Group aims to manufacture all its packaging using more sustainable materials. As part of achieving this goal, the company is phasing out single-use plastics in its LEGO building blocks and replacing plastic pre-packaged bags with new bags made from Forest Stewardship Council certified forests and FSC controlled wood. The new paper bags, which have been verified as recyclable materials in the European Union, USA and Canada, began rolling out in Europe and Asia this year and will continue until 2024, when the Americas market will also start rolling out.

Tim Brooks, Vice President of Environmental Responsibility at LEGO Group, said: "The transition to paper bags is an important milestone in the LEGO Group's journey towards sustainable materials. Phasing out single-use plastics from our products is very important to us because, unlike paper bags, this material is rarely recycled. We set out to do this three years ago and faced many technical challenges to find a package that would not compromise the high standards LEGO fans had come to expect of us. It was a true team effort to reach this exciting moment and we are very proud to see the launch of paper bags gain real momentum."

To get the new bag just right, Lego put some 70 different papers and formats to the test, and the team's excellent work is now rolling off the production line in factories in the Czech Republic, Hungary and China. Tim Brooke continued: "Over 350 Lego colleagues have pulled together to solve this important challenge, and what they have achieved is incredible. Balancing the importance of construction experience, product quality and engineering and production challenges with the urgent need to be more sustainable has not been easy. We look forward to hearing what fans think when they open the first paper prepackaged bag."

The Pick & Build wall at the LEGO retail store will also offer paper containers, as flat-packed, fast-assemble paper packaging is replacing plastic cups. The new format will be rolled out gradually in European and North American markets for the remainder of 2023, as well as in South American and Asian markets in 2024. Similarly, the packaging of all LEGO ® minifigures collections has been changed from single-use plastic boxes to recyclable cartons. The new cartons, which began rolling out globally in August, will help the LEGO Group save around 30 tonnes of single-use plastic annually.

In September, the LEGO Group announced plans to triple its investment in environmental sustainability, spending more than $1.40 billion on sustainability-related activities over the next three years. The expansion of boxed paper bags, Pick a Brick and the Lego ® minifigures collectible paper packaging are all important milestones in the LEGO Group's ambition to reduce its environmental impact. The packaging is made from 95% paper, with the remainder being a thin plastic coating, with the aim of protecting LEGO ® elements from piercing the bags and sticking them together. The bags are widely recyclable in countries with paper recycling infrastructure and have been validated by external laboratories in the European Union, the United States and Canada.

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