With a growing anti-plastic sentiment among consumers, companies are trying to reduce the amount of plastic they use and increase the amount of recycled materials they use. A big announcement by Coca-Cola last week that the company would “collect and recycle the equivalent of all its packaging by 2030,” is just the latest sign that this is a trend companies are going to be promoting as part of their marketing. The FT reports:
Makers of everything from crisps and drinks to shampoo and laundry detergent are responding to growing public alarm about pollution as a younger generation, deemed to be more environmentally aware, becomes the biggest spending group. In addition, documentaries by Sir David Attenborough, the British naturalist, and others, have alerted people to the level of plastic in our oceans and its destructive impact on wildlife.
The war on plastic is now “part of a marketing plan” for consumer goods companies says Ali Dibadj, analyst with Bernstein. “Millennials in particular are a target of these companies. And millennials are broadly looking for opportunities to do good in the world, not just financially.”
The trend stretches beyond recycling plastic. Brands that promote themselves as “natural” or “green”, such as Seventh Generation, a Vermont maker of plant-based cleaning products, have gained market share in recent years. Unilever last year bought Seventh Generation, a move the Anglo-Dutch group said would help it “meet rising demand for high-quality products with a purpose”.
Erik Solheim, executive director of the UN’s environment agency, welcomes companies’ new-found enthusiasm for recycling as a “climb to the top rather than a dive to the bottom”.
“Both business and government have been sleepwalking up to now,” he says. “Just a couple of years ago there was very little action on plastic and packaging. Now there’s been a sea change.”
McDonald’s, which last week announced goals to make all of its packaging from renewable or recyclable sources by 2025, says packaging waste is the top environmental issue customers have asked the company to address. Just 10 per cent of McDonald’s restaurants offer recycling, which the world’s largest restaurant chain plans to raise to 100 per cent by 2025.
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Jeremy Jones, CFA
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