In an effort to further reduce its use of single-use plastic packaging, PepsiCo has agreed to set a time-bound goal by the end of 2022 for a percent of volume of beverages to be delivered via strategies that avoid or minimize single-use packaging. These strategies will include reusable and refillable bottles or containers, beverages that utilize concentrates such as fountain drinks, prepare at home beverages (such as its SodaStream subsidiary), or beverages sold in powder or drop form.
The pledge was made in response to a shareholder proposal filed by As You Sow, asking the company to report on actions it could take to rapidly reduce dependence on single-use plastic packaging, with a suggested focus on setting stronger refillables goals.
“We appreciate the actions PepsiCo has already taken to reduce its use of virgin plastic and are pleased it is willing to review its operations and search for additional opportunities to reduce reliance on single-use plastic packaging,” said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president at As You Sow. “We hope the company will take a close look at its ability to increase the use of refillable plastic and glass bottles in key markets.”
A recent analysis by environmental group Oceana indicated considerable potential to reduce ocean plastic by increasing refill market share. It concluded that boosting the share of refillable bottles by 10% in all coastal countries in place of single-use PET bottles could reduce plastic bottle marine pollution by 22%.
Following the filing of a similar proposal with The Coca-Cola Co., the company agreed in February to set a goal to increase the share of its beverages delivered in returnable/refillable containers from a current 16% to 25% of beverages in refillables by 2030. Refillables have demonstrated the ability to substantially cut plastic waste and in some markets achieve collection rates of 90% or more. Refillable bottles can be reused from 20 to 40 times. By comparison, less than 30% of single-use PET beverage containers are recycled in the U.S.
PepsiCo informed As You Sow it would develop its goal based on careful assessments of system capabilities, market opportunities, consumer preferences, and other factors. The company will study the scope of actions it can commit to in the coming months and announce the size of its commitment by year-end. In recognition of this significant step by the company, As You Sow agreed to withdraw its shareholder proposal.
The pledge follows a September 2021 announcement by the company stating new goals to cut virgin plastic per serving by 50% across its global food and beverage portfolio by 2030, using 50% recycled content in its plastic packaging and scaling the SodaStream business globally, following engagement with As You Sow.