The snacks giant was named as one of the three ‘top polluters in Asia’ in 2018, leading to widespread backlash over its use of single-use plastic packaging. This has been particularly so in the Philippines, which saw enormous waves of plastic waste crashing into Manila shores the same year.
This is possibly why the firm has been quick to pledge its support to the sustainability initiative, dubbed the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability (PARMS).
“PARMS is committed to [adopt] science-based and practical solutions to reduce waste and support global, national and local efforts to collect and recycle plastic waste, while keeping the commitment of global brands to shift to 100% sustainable packaging by 2025,” said PARMS in its launch statement.
“[Alongside this, we will still recognise] the benefits that plastics bring and the importance of plastic waste management.”
Mondelez Philippines also stated that banning plastic ‘may put a strain on the economy and consumers’ and that the right move would be to ‘look at the lacking waste management infrastructure of the country’.
“For Mondelez Philippines, this [pledge] means that our packaging must not add to the world’s waste problem in the long term,” Mondelez Philippines Corporate and Government Affairs Country Manager Toff Rada told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Therefore, the volume of packaging material recovered and recycled from waste streams must at least match the volume produced. Adopting circular economy principles will help us achieve this vision.
“We aim to deliver against our long-term vision for zero-net waste packaging by addressing two objectives: making it easier for consumers to recycle packaging and supporting industry coalitions to improve recycling rates.”
Rada added that the PARMS pledge is in alignment with three of the firm’s sustainability goals: Reducing packaging material by 65,000 tons by the end of 2020 by optimising our packaging formats, Redesigning 100% of packaging to be recyclable and labelled with such information by 2025, and multi-stakeholder collaboration to tackle plastic waste.
“[We are working with stakeholders] to support improved infrastructure and greater harmonization of packaging materials, so that more packaging can be collected and recycled. Plastic waste from our manufacturing facility in the Philippines is already used as co-fuel by a partner cement company,” he said.
“We have also partnered with PARMS for a pilot recycling facility in Paranaque City, [constructed] three recycled plastic play areas in Paranaque and Quezon City in 2019, [and are] also looking to expand our post-consumer collection and recycling this 2020.”
No plastic reduction?
The pledge can also be seen as a new attempt to make plastic more acceptable and recyclable in the food industry, and not so much to reduce its usage – something that non-governmental organisations would likely not agree with.
Many of these organisations have previously called recycling systems globally ‘broken’ and accused big food firms of simply providing ‘false solutions’ – and till date, no one party has yet been able to provide a solution that is both industry and NGOs find feasible.
That said, Rada emphasised that without the use of plastic, the food industry is likely to run into far worse issues.
“Plastic is a highly efficient material which helps us develop packaging that provides the right levels of security, quality, product protection, and preservation for food products,” he said.
“Without plastic, the shelf life of many food products would be far shorter and would create more food waste, which is a far worse problem for the economy and environment.”
The firm’s strong stance on recycling over reduction was also apparent when asked about materials/processes to reduce plastic usage, such as Mondelez Australia’s recent trial of a 100% recyclable plastic-free packaging for exports, to which Rada responded: “None at the moment.”