Foodservice backs away from plastic commitments

A new plastics economy global commitment boasts signatories from companies representing 20% of all plastic packaging produced globally – but not one of them is from the foodservice sector.

Led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with UN Environment, the commitment aims to create a “new normal” for plastic packaging.

Targets include: the elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and a move from single-use to reuse packaging models; innovation to ensure 100% of plastic packaging can be easily and safely reused, recycled, or composted by 2025; and circulation of
the plastic produced, by “significantly increasing the amounts of plastics reused or recycled and made into new packaging or products”.

Well-known consumer-facing businesses such as Mars, PepsiCo, the Coca- Cola Company and Unilever are all signed up, as well as major packaging producers such as Amcor, packaging producers like Novamont, and resource management specialists including Veolia.

Footprint asked EMF to check the published list of “packaged goods companies, retailers, hospitality and foodservice companies and packaging producers” because there seemed to be no foodservice or hospitality companies – no Starbucks, no McDonald’s, no Compass, no Sodexo and so on. “We are definitely open for these companies to sign the global commitment, but so far none of them have done so I’m afraid,” said a spokeswoman.

It is a similar story in the UK’s Plastic Pact – an offshoot of the global commitment, which was launched back in April. Billed as a “trailblazing, collaborative initiative … that will create a circular economy for plastics”, the pact kicked off with 42 food business members, only two of them from foodservice. At the last count, five were involved – Apetito, Brakes, Mitie, Pret and Westmill – plus industry group UKHospitality.

Food to go packaging represents a significant issue given that it can be hard to capture the waste and expensive to recycle the materials. Volumes could continue to rise. The latest figures from the NPD Group showed that for the year ending July 2018, there were 5.1 billion food-to-go visits, an increase of 2%. By comparison, on-premise visits fell 3.5% to 4.4 billion.

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