At Mars, we believe the world we want tomorrow, starts with how we do business today. That’s why today, we’re rethinking our approach to packaging, because we believe there is no such thing as a sustainable product in unsustainable packaging.
We’re proud of our products, but deeply concerned about the impact of packaging waste on land and in the ocean.
Many of our products are wrapped in plastic packaging and most of this packaging is not recycled. Too much of it ends up in the environment. This is unacceptable and we are committed to addressing this, even if it means redesigning much of our packaging or our business models.
Why packaging matters
Packaging plays many important roles in ensuring our products meet the highest market standards. It protects ingredients as they move from farms to factories and finished products as they move to store shelves and finally to consumers. Packaging helps preserve the freshness of our products and provides consumers with helpful information such as nutritional profiles and portion guidance. It also offers convenience and helps differentiate our brands. We need to maintain all these benefits while also finding a way to make sure our packaging can be part of a circular economy.
The challenges with today’s packaging
Our packaging is made of many different kinds of materials. From sturdy cardboard boxes for shipping to lightweight papers, metal cans, glass jars and a variety of plastics, a diverse packaging mix is in use across our global business.
Paper, metal, rigid plastic and glass are frequently recycled materials, where infrastructure exists. They are part of the circular economy where they can be kept in a loop for reuse, recycling or composting. We use these materials in glass sauce jars, gum bottles, pet food cans and a range of chocolate products.
Flexible plastic packages, however, are recycled far less and in some cases not at all. We use a lot of this type of packaging in formats ranging from large dog food bags to ready-to-heat rice pouches to small packages of candy or gum. Most of these packs end up in incineration and landfills, but some are littered and others escape waste management systems and find their way into the ocean.
So what are we doing about it?
|2025 Sustainable Plastic Packaging Plans|
|100% of our plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable*|
|25% reduction in virgin plastic use**|
|10 reuse programs that test new business models|
|30% average recycled content in our plastic packaging**|
|Recycling guidance for consumers in all major markets|
|Eliminate PVC (2020)|
|*per EMF definitions
**Target dependent on advancement of chemical recycling at pace and scale & alignment of food safety regulations
Mars is a core partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation New Plastic Economy initiative and a signatory of their Global Commitment to eliminate plastic waste and pollution at its source. Our vision is aligned with theirs, to support a circular economy where packaging never becomes waste.
To advance towards this vision, by 2025 we plan to reduce our virgin plastic use by 25% and for 100% of our plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable.
We’re therefore rethinking our approach to packaging by 1) reducing packaging that we don’t need; 2) redesigning the packaging that we do need for circularity; and 3) investing to close the loop.
1. Reducing packaging that we don’t need
For years, we’ve been focused on light-weighting packaging materials of all types, including plastics. We’ll keep at that while also looking for ways to eliminate unnecessary layers of plastics and other materials in secondary and tertiary packaging. For example, in China we removed 40% of the weight from our gum bottles between 2015 and 2018.
We also will reduce our packaging use by shifting to reuse models, where possible. We’re exploring innovative reuse models with a plan to have at least 10 new reuse programs in markets by 2025. Adopting reuse models helps prevent single-use plastics from getting into the market in the first place. These include our partnership with Loop, an e-commerce shopping platform that delivers “PerfectFit” pet food in durable packaging that, once all the product is consumed, is collected and refilled for future reuse. It also includes bulk sales options like M&M Colorworks in grocery stores.
2. Redesigning the packaging that we do need for circularity
In 2017, we were one of the first companies in our industry to commit to 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2025. Today, 19% of our plastic packaging is recyclable in practice and at scale. Even more is technically recyclable where infrastructure exists. While it’s a start, we clearly have more work to do.
We’re rethinking the design of our packaging so it can be recycled and reused. This includes replacing hard-to-recycle packaging formats, such as those that use multiple materials into a single material packaging format. We’re also eliminating the use of problematic materials such as PVC across all packaging formats.
We’re looking for ways to replace plastics with other materials like paper that are more recyclable. This paper-based packaging will be 100% sourced from certified, verified or recycled sources by 2020.
In 2019, for example, we launched a MALTESERS® Truffle Treat package in the U.K. market, replacing the plastic wrapper and carton tray with a cardboard solution that is fully recyclable. Beginning in 2020, we also will test the use of more paper packaging materials where we can replace plastics with paper without sacrificing food quality, shelf life or production speed.
The Mars Advanced Research Institute (MARI) is exploring the development of new materials that ensure food safety and functionality for consumers, while also enabling a circular economy. This includes research into biodegradable and compostable packaging materials within our portfolio.
Our efforts to reduce and redesign are significant shifts that will require a transformation for many of our packages.
3. Investing to close the loop
Even when a package is designed to be recyclable, reusable or compostable, it won’t be without the right consumer behaviors, collection, sorting systems and infrastructure. Today, valuable materials are being thrown away every day in every market where we operate around the world. To advance a future where packaging never becomes waste, we need the recycling and regulatory environment to evolve in significant ways.
Our plan is to use 30% recycled content on average across our plastic packaging portfolio by 2025. By purchasing recycled content we are encouraging investment in recycling systems. This closes the loop, taking the output from recycling systems and putting it back into our packaging.
We will further incentivize recycling systems by supporting increased investment in and evolution of well-designed Extended Producer Responsibility or other schemes. Working together with other businesses, community and government partners, will ensure high levels of collection, sorting and recycling of packaging.
Today, only mechanical recycling exists at scale for paper, glass, metal and rigid plastics – and it’s only available in certain markets. We need innovative recycling technologies in place to enable the recycling and reuse of flexible plastics. Mars is working to engage coalitions of companies through the Consumer Goods Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the Circular Plastics Alliance and others to invest in and advocate for such technologies.
Chemical recycling is one of the potential solutions to recycle flexible plastic packaging. Chemical recycling refers to a suite of processes that break down the plastic and brings it back to the building blocks that enable it to make new plastic or other useful materials. It is the only recycling solution to date that can deliver food-safe recycled content for our flexible plastic packages. If chemical recycling can be deployed responsibly and at scale, we’ll be able to recycle our flexible plastic packaging, increase the use of recycled content in our flexible plastic packaging and reduce our use of virgin plastics.
A circular economy requires a scale-up of multiple reuse and recycling systems. Mechanical, chemical and organic recycling will all play a role in building a circular economy and ending packaging waste. Ideally, every market will have harmonized collection, advanced sorting systems, and access to mechanical, chemical and organic recycling facilities to circulate all forms of packaging material and formats.
Inspiring Associates and consumers to recycle
To close the loop, we also need consumers to be part of the solution. Mars will continue to engage consumers with recycling guidance to help them make decisions about what to do with the packaging once they’ve enjoyed the product. We aim to have this guidance reach all major markets where our products are available by 2025. This guidance will be a mix of on-pack labelling and corporate and brand communication. We also will partner with our peers and industry groups to encourage clarity in labelling and communications.
In the U.K., Mars is already the largest corporate investor in anti-littering education programs and we’ll continue these investments. We sponsor Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean, which aims to engage as many people as possible to pick-up litter in their local area. We also support the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Keep It, Bin It national anti-littering campaign. This initiative seeks to make littering culturally unacceptable within a generation, by focusing on encouraging behaviour change with young people.
We believe our new approach to packaging will inspire people to think differently about what and how they consume.
By reducing the packaging we don’t need, redesigning the packaging we do need, and investing to close the loop, we believe we can help build a circular economy where packaging never becomes waste.