They say that in football the best defense is a good offense. In the plastics industry, sometimes the offense is completely ignored by those whose goal is to rid the world of plastic. On April 16, activists from Greenpeace gathered at Nestlé’s U.S. headquarters in Arlington, VA, to protest the company’s continued reliance on single-use plastic bottles. They carried a giant 15-foot tall “monster” puppet made of all types of scrap plastic created by Paperhand Puppet Intervention. The monster reportedly spewed plastic waste outside of Nestlé’s office before finally being left on the company’s doorstep, said a report in Forbes.
Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner Kate Melges explained in a statement, “Nestlé has created a monster by producing endless quantities of throwaway plastics that persist in our environment for lifetimes,” reported Forbes.
This protest came shortly after Nestlé Waters NA won the 2019 Design for Recycling Award from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries for its design of the Pure Life 700-ml bottle made from 100% recycled PET (rPET). Obviously, the people at Greenpeace—which has become known for its increasingly radical and destructive behavior toward any company that doesn’t conform to its way of thinking—either cannot or refuse to read about the tremendous strides Nestlé is making toward a circular economy.
Greenpeace officials are demanding the company “phase out or significantly reduce” the amount of plastic it uses in the first place, saying that in 2018 Nestlé produced 13% more plastic than during the previous year, noted the Forbes article.
A Nestlé spokesperson, responding to that accusation by e-mail to Forbes, called that number “a misunderstanding arising from two numbers which are not comparable,” noting that the company’s increase in plastic output is less than the organic sales growth of the company, the latter having increased by 18.5% over the last five years.
Nestlé Waters announced on April 9 that the company will achieve 25% recycled plastic content across its U.S. domestic portfolio by 2021, and “plans to continue expanding its use of recycled materials in the coming years, further setting an ambitious goal to reach 50% recycled plastic by 2025.” The company also noted that it is expanding its relationship with key supplier Plastrec (Joliette, QC, Canada) and is working with other suppliers to support the company’s goal to nearly quadruple its use of food-grade recycled plastic, or rPET, in less than three years.
“We want to take the ‘single’ out of ‘single-use’ bottles,” said Fernando Mercé, President and CEO of Nestlé Waters NA. “PET plastic is a valuable resource that, if recycled properly, can be used to make new bottles again and again. We’re proving that it can be done by making bottles out of other bottles, not 10 years from now, but today.”
Organizations like Greenpeace, As You Sow and others seem to turn a deaf ear to all the efforts that plastics industry OEMs are making to address the problem of plastics in the environment—even though it’s not a plastic problem as much as a people problem. Plastic doesn’t walk into the environment by itself, and the amount of PET needed to support efforts to use recycled content in great numbers requires everyone to pitch in and pitch their PET into the proper recycling bin.
Mercé wrote an editorial recently at morningconsult.com (“Taking the ‘Single’ Out of ‘Single-Use’ Plastic Bottles”) in which he stated, “The truth is, the plastic we use to make most of our water bottles was not meant to be thrown away. It was designed to be collected, recycled and reused again and again. This process is known as a ‘circular economy,’ and it is the key to significantly reducing the need to create new plastic.”
Nestlé’s achievements were noted in his editorial: “Over the last two decades, our company has led the beverage industry in efficiency. We have reduced by nearly two-thirds the amount of plastic in our bottles; in 1990, our half-liter bottle weighed 24 grams, and it now weighs only 8.45 grams. . . . To keep plastic bottles from becoming garbage, we need to recognize them as the valuable commodity that they are—by using and better enabling the use of recycled plastic.”
Mercé noted that currently there is a supply problem—the company cannot “source enough quality material at competitive prices, and suppliers of rPET aren’t getting the market signals necessary to increase the quality and supply.”
But Greenpeace and others of their ilk aren’t satisfied with the advances being made in the circular economy—it will be satisfied with nothing less than the complete eradication of plastics from the Earth. But in doing so, look at its own “monster” created with water bottles, retail bags and other valuable scrap plastic left on the doorstep of Nestlé’s headquarters, rather than being sorted and placed in proper recycling bins. This shows the total lack of regard for any company’s recycling efforts.
These tactics make a mockery of the idea that Greenpeace, As You Sow and others are trying to do good for the Earth. Earth Day means nothing to them, and they showed that by leaving their plastic mess behind after their protest. Many of the people who support organizations like Greenpeace most likely follow Greenpeace’s example and throw their plastic trash into the environment, then blame the companies who produce beneficial, energy-saving, resource-saving, environmentally friendly products for the mess.
It’s time the plastics industry as a whole takes a tougher stand against these so-called “green” organizations and calls them out for what they are: Unscientific people who are not knowledgeable about the benefits of plastics and care nothing for the Earth.
Image courtesy iQoncept/Adobe Stock.