P&G Fabric Care brands commit to reduce plastic packaging by 30% across Europe by 2025

Environmental ideaAt the Sustainable Brands Conference on April 24 in Paris, Virginie Helias, Chief Sustainability Officer at P&G, announced that Ariel, Lenor and other P&G Fabric Care brands across Europe aim to reduce plastics use in their packaging by 30% by 2025. This is a key milestone in reaching the Ariel 2030 brand ambition of reinventing a “better clean” by saving 50% of resources by 2030, including virgin plastics, said the company.

The Ariel Pods round tubs will move to bags, saving 75% of packaging per wash. In answer to a question from PlasticsToday, Guillaume Lebert, Sustainability Senior Scientist at P&G, said, “Today’s Ariel Pods round tub is made of opaque PET, which is not effectively or widely recycled in any European country. Our bags are a complex material, so the recyclability profile remains the same as the round tub, i.e., it's not widely recyclable.”

Lebert noted, however, that P&G is “obviously working” to make the bag a mono-material, hence recyclable, to be in line with the company’s goal of having 100% of its packaging recyclable by 2022. While the company is not quite ready to roll out a mono-material polymer bag, the decision was made to move fast with the new bags as a “first step, enabling us to reduce our non-recyclable quantity by 2,000 tons per year,” Lebert explained. “As soon as possible and before 2022, we will convert those bags to mono-material as a second step. In the meantime, where suitable, we are partnering with TerraCycle to offer an ad-hoc recyclability solution to consumers in Europe for our complex bags, so they still get a second life.”

These planned plastics reductions from Ariel, Lenor and other P&G Fabric Care brands add up to more than 15,000 tons per year by 2025 versus 2018. Although P&G Fabric Care plastics packaging only makes up a relatively small percentage of the total European plastics waste, the amount of plastics saved every year will be significant—enough to make one line of detergent bottles that circles around the earth, according to the announcement.

“Our Ariel and Lenor brands are pioneering packaging reduction practices that will be critical to P&G achieving our commitment to reduce virgin plastics in packaging by 50% by 2030,” said Helias. “This is one of many examples of P&G’s leadership brands innovating to inspire and enable responsible consumption.”

Marcus Gover, Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) CEO, said, “We’re delighted to see P&G make further commitments to tackling plastic packaging waste. Through the ‘UK Plastics Pact,’ of which P&G is a founding member, we are working together with business, governments and citizens to transform the way we make, use and dispose of plastic—keeping it in the economy and out of the environment.”

By 2022, P&G Fabric Care Europe aims to make all its brands’ packaging 100% recyclable. Ariel and Lenor are working to increase the demand for recycling by further increasing the use of post-consumer recycled material (PCR) in their packaging, which today already contains up to 50% PCR, said P&G. To take further steps toward circularity, the industry should collaborate and promote easy and effective recycling.

Lebert added that currently P&G has a high percentage of recyclable plastic in its Fabric Care Europe portfolio, including all of its liquid laundry detergents. “We are committed to converting the remaining packaging to full recyclability,” he said.

To help with this, P&G scientists are working with the industry on innovative solutions, such as PetCore Europe's perforated sleeves for better recyclability. These efforts have been recognized: P&G’s Principal Scientist, Gian De Belder, has been awarded the EU Plastics Recycling Ambassador of the Year Award, for example. Ariel also participates in cutting-edge pilot schemes, such as Loop, which aims to drive circularity by applying the “milkman refill model.”

Volke Kuhn, Vice President Fabric Care at P&G, commented, “We are always challenging ourselves to grow our business sustainably. Removing 30% of plastics across Europe's Fabric Care products is a bold move we want to deliver by 2025 at the latest. We are delighted that more and more consumers choose our Ariel Pods, which is the most compact detergent we offer. Pods require less plastic packaging per wash while supplying the exact amount of detergent needed, thereby avoiding wastage and over-dosing.”

Lebert acknowledged that a large part of recyclability is actually getting the empty packaging into the recycling stream. “Today in Europe we are not collecting, hence recycling, enough packaging,” he told PlasticsToday. “This is a key concern for our company and we are supporting all initiatives that can facilitate increased plastic collection.” He noted that in France, for example, all plastic packaging goes into the same bag—the sorting facility, not the consumer, takes care of the sorting. “We know this enables a much bigger collection of plastic as, most of the time, when consumers are in doubt whether they should place a plastic pack in recycling or garbage, they tend to dispose of it in a regular one.”

Kuhn added that “addressing the plastics issue is everyone’s responsibility, and we’re determined to drive a step toward circularity, so that no plastic from our brands’ packaging finds its way into the oceans or landfill.”

Image courtesy Sarayut Sy/Adobe Stock.

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