Q&A with PepsiCo India’s Chief Govt. Affairs & Comm. Officer, Mr. Viraj Chouhan, on their sustainable plastic strategy

Q. What is PepsiCo’s thought-process on sustainability?

A. PepsiCo believes in a circular economy of plastic and it is striving to build a world where plastics need never become waste. It shares the concerns over the growing threat that plastic waste poses to our communities and marine environment. And as one of the world’s leading food and beverage companies, it recognizes the role it can play in changing the way society makes, uses, and disposes plastics, and is doing its part to help make sustainable plastics a reality.

Q. What is target for, and approach towards, this sustainable plastic strategy?

A. As part of its sustainability goals, PepsiCo is committed to the circular future of packaging by designing 100% of packaging to be recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025, increasing the recycled content in plastics packaging to 25% by 2025, reducing 35% of virgin plastic content across its beverage portfolio by 2025 and investing to increase recycling rates in key markets by 2025.

In 2019, PepsiCo India committed to collect, segregate and sustainably recover 30% equivalent of plastic packaging across 20 Indian states, and is working to collect, segregate & sustainably manage equivalent of 100% of our plastic packaging by 2021.

Further, PepsiCo’s sustainable plastics vision is rooted on three pillars of Reduce, Recycle and Reinvent.

Under Reduce, it has worked to reduce the use of plastic across its packaging (primary, secondary and tertiary) and is striving to design all its packaging with the most efficient use of materials possible. It is deploying a charge compaction technology that allows it to pack snacks in smaller bags. It has been light-weighting the beverage PET bottles to use less plastic.

Under Recycle, it is working to enhance plastic waste management. It works with partners across India to collect, segregate and sustainably dispose post-consumer PET and MLP as part of its extended producer responsibility (EPR) commitment.

Globally, PepsiCo is committed to being part of the solution through active partnerships and stakeholder engagements, such as the World Economic Forum and their Global Plastics Action Partnership (GPAP), which would fast track solutions in coastal countries battling plastic waste, the New Plastics Economy, which collaborates with governments, companies and NGOs to build momentum towards a plastics system that works, Circulate Capital, raising more than $100 million to invest in infrastructure to prevent the flow of plastics into the world’s oceans and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, which supports development of effective plastic waste EPR systems.

Under Reinvent, PepsiCo is working to radically reinvent packaging and the plastics used to realize the sustainable packaging vision. Globally, it is working on different business models like Beyond the Bottle, Beyond the Plastics, etc. Beyond the Bottle looks at different business models with next-generation fountain service and reusable containers to deliver beverages to consumers without single-use plastic bottles. Under Beyond the Plastics, through its work with Danimer Scientific, it is developing packaging that is biodegradable. This material was piloted in India in early-2019 to understand the trends and attitudes of consumers towards recycling and composting, as well as consumer acceptance and perception of value propositions.

Q. What are the milestones or achievements in this journey towards sustainability?

A. As part of PepsiCo India’s EPR programme, it has achieved the milestone of 100% PET recycling for Maharashtra. It worked with Gem Enviro Management, a leading waste management company, to set up 100 collection points and 36 collection centres across 36 districts of Maharashtra for the effective collection and recycling of used PET bottles. The program strengthened the existing informal collection network by working with more than 10,000 waste-pickers and ensuring higher income by incentivizing collection efforts.

Maharashtra is the second geography after Delhi to achieve 100% PET recycling target. In Delhi, PepsiCo set up Reverse Vending Machines, collection vans, electric rickshaws, collection centres and over 25 collection points across Delhi to enable the effective collection and recycling of used PET bottles.

1PepsiCo India’s leadership team with Hon’ble Minister of Environment & Forests, India, on PepsiCo India commitment for Delhi PET Recycling

PepsiCo India has also piloted the first-ever 100% compostable, plant-based packaging for its popular snacks’ brands, Lay’s and Kurkure, at the Terminal 3 Airport in Delhi.

The company remains committed to support the government’s agenda of #SwachtaaHiSeva, implement on-ground programs and drive consumer awareness for the issue. It has been driving mass awareness on plastic waste management and recycling through clean-up drives like Jallosh (Mumbai beach and river clean-up), Cleanathon (Nagpur), Plog Run (Delhi) and school awareness programs. It has partnered with organizations to upcycle/recycle plastic to create utility products such as chairs, tables, t-shirts, laptop bags.

1Jallosh-Beach and River Clean up activity in Mumbai

Q. How is PepsiCo working with industry peers to realize the goal of plastic waste management?

A. To address the growing concern of plastic waste, PepsiCo India along with 30 leading companies in the industry jointly launched Asia’s largest, first-of-its-kind, producer led and owned venture for creating a formal plastic circular economy in the country. The approach to set up this platform was developed and incubated by Packaging Association for Clean Environment (PACE) with the objective of developing a transformative system which enables inclusion, ethics, transparency, good governance and traceability of waste. This Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) will mobilize and converge resources towards a common goal of recycling all packaging material by 2025.

1Launch of KARO SAMBHAV, Asia’s largest PRO for creating a plastic circular economy in the country

PepsiCo India is also working as part of a national consortium of 35+ FMCG companies, WeCare (Waste Efficient Collection and Recycling Efforts, for sustainable management of post-consumer plastic packaging and promote circular economy efforts for consumer goods packaging. Today WeCare is the face of industry which is committed towards efficient and sustainable plastic waste management and looks forward to collaborating with government in its endeavour to find pragmatic ways of dealing with issue at hand. The vision of WeCare is to demonstrate industry leadership for sustainable management of plastic packaging, with focus on Multi layered packaging (MLP), and promote efforts on circular economy. WeCare has been able to showcase industry intent and provide policy inputs for harmonized plastic waste management on a pan India basis.

As part of an industry consortium of FMCG companies along with the Pollution Control Boards, it has helped launch a five-year program for effectively managing used multi-layered packaging in Punjab & Maharashtra – an excellent example of public-private partnership.

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