Few big retailers, food brands or fast food restaurants are adequately reducing the amount of waste they and the products they sell produce, according to a new report by advocacy group As You Sow and the National Resources Defense Council.
“Most companies have not sufficiently prioritized packaging source reduction, recyclability, compostability, recycled content and recycling policies,” the authors write. For the report, they surveyed 47 large companies including McDonald’s, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills and Unilever.
Many of the brands included, it seems, could take a few notes from smaller companies in the natural space that have made sustainable packaging a priority.
“Brands need to step up and commit to on-site, front-of-house recycling,” the authors say. “Back-of-house recycling of readily recyclable materials like corrugated boxes should be standard procedure at all quick service restaurants immediately, as it is relatively easy to implement.”
In the grocery and consumer packaged goods space, one trend that’s contributing to the problem, the groups say, is the increasing popularity of flexible pouch packaging, which is not typically recyclable. Organic bottled tea company Honest Tea, now part of Coca-Cola, gets a shoutout in the report for exploring a shift to aseptic cartons for its Honest Kids juice.
The authors offer a few key action items for brands:
- Measure the problem by disclosing production figures, because what is measured can be managed.
- Prioritize end-of-life disposal during the product design process.
- Become actively involved in the development of state-level producer responsibility mandates that would spread responsibility fairly among brands.
Retail stores can also have a significant impact, too. The report recommends:
- Promoting sales of reusable bags through smart product placement and reduced cost.
- Placing reminders on shopping carts and doors to encourage shoppers to bring their own bags.
- Offering incentives for shoppers to bring a reusable bag.
- Shipping produce in reusable plastic containers instead of corrugated and waxed-cardboard boxes.