Plans For More Sustainable Packaging
Packaging waste is a challenge requiring new solutions
At Mars, we want to contribute to a circular economy where packaging material never becomes waste, but is recycled, reused or composted. To address the issue, we are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to reimagine and redesign our packaging. This includes redesigning more than 12,000 packaging types across our diverse portfolio to fit with the recycling infrastructure that either exists today or is likely to exist in the near future in the markets where we operate, making it easier for consumers to reuse or recycle our packaging. Today, almost half of our packaging portfolio is undergoing redesign or elimination.
We’re holding ourselves accountable by embedding our packaging targets into how we measure success. Our top 300 executives now have remuneration linked to delivering against our packaging targets.
In addition to our internal work to redesign our packaging for sustainability, we are actively working to drive true systems change through partnerships with governments, NGOs, suppliers, packaging developers and even competitors. We are investing in recycled content and signaling our intent to buy much more in order to drive new investments in recycling technologies. And we’re calling for the improvement of these systems through legislation and industry collaboration.
The Packaging Challenge
Packaging waste is a global problem that threatens our oceans and the health of the planet. For Mars, packaging waste doesn’t align with our vision for a world where the planet is healthy. There is no sustainable product without sustainable packaging.
We’re taking action to support the circular economy through investments and innovation, working toward a world where packaging material never becomes waste, but is reused, recycled or composted.
Mars uses a small fraction of the plastic used by some peers our size, and the packaging we use is particularly lightweight and preserves the freshness of our products to ensure they meet the highest quality and food safety standards. For much of our portfolio, we use flexible packaging which provides convenience to consumers and is safe for human and animal food products, while using as little material as possible. We need to maintain these benefits and find ways to make sure our packaging is part of a circular economy.
But eliminating packaging waste today is a massive challenge. The current system for collecting, sorting, and recycling can’t yet handle the many different forms of waste it meets. While mechanical recycling systems are in place for some rigid plastic materials such as bottles, the recycling systems that can process our food-grade packaging are severely underdeveloped and underfunded – getting them up and running will take years. And infrastructure differs from country to country, and even from state to state, making it impossible for most plastic packaging to be recyclable at scale.
What is Mars Doing?
Mars has set an aggressive, science-based strategy to design our products for a circular economy. We’re eliminating unnecessary packaging, removing difficult to recycle materials such as PVC, and using recycled content wherever possible.
Where packaging remains necessary, Mars is innovating to make sure it is reusable, recyclable or compostable. We aim to:
- Have 100% of our packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable;
- Reduce our use of new “virgin” plastic by 25%; and
- Incorporate 30% recycled content into our plastic packaging.
To meet these ambitious and aspirational targets, and as part of our multi-billion dollar Sustainable in a Generation Plan, we are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to redesign more than 12,000 packaging types (e.g., product pouches, dry bags, etc.) or nearly half our packaging portfolio, to fit with the recycling infrastructure that either exists today or is likely to exist in the near future, making it easier for consumers to reuse or recycle our packaging.
Hundreds of Mars Associates are already working to address packaging waste in our portfolio – and this team is growing. We are embedding our packaging targets into how we measure success. Our top 300 executives now have remuneration linked to delivering against our packaging targets.
Mars is also actively working to drive true systems change, including the modernization of local waste management and recycling infrastructure. We are investing in recycled content in our plastic packaging, signaling our intent to buy much more in order to create the demand that can drive new investments in recycling technologies. And we’re calling for the improvement of these systems through legislation and industry collaboration.
We are making strong progress
While 44% of our portfolio is designed for circularity, meaning it is recyclable when the right infrastructure is available; currently 22% is practically recyclable, reusable or compostable today in recycling systems where we sell the products. We’ve reduced our use of virgin plastic by 2%, eliminating 99% of PVC from our packaging; and we are using 400 metric tons of recycled content in our plastic packaging (with plans to increase when food-safe materials become more available). Further, we’re seeking ways to incorporate recycled content into other materials as we redesign our formats.
Where other solutions are not viable, we support investment in advanced recycling where food-safe flexible packs can be converted back into plastic material and where these systems produce fewer emissions than current alternatives such as incineration or virgin plastics. We also support fair and transparent extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes that help fund recycling infrastructure. While these schemes may present a substantial “tax” for manufacturers such as Mars, we believe we have a responsibility to address the packaging waste issue and are willing to invest in the needed infrastructure through EPR.
Fixing these fundamental issues cannot be done by businesses alone. Mars is driving several progressive waste management partnerships with governments, NGOs, suppliers, packaging manufacturers and designers, and peer companies to collectively call for this change. Mars is a partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) New Plastic Economy initiative and a signatory of its Global Commitment, in support of our shared goal to create a circular economy where packaging never becomes waste.