Let me begin by stating plainly: I am a sucker for packaging. Color, shape, font, and succinct messaging all appeal to me on a fundamental level. So, it hurts to suggest that food and beverage packaging as we know it today must undergo revolutionary change. I feel that we are approaching a major shift in the way consumers engage with packaged goods. Product packaging that remains after use is a burden. It’s a burden to consumers, to communities and to the environment. My sense is that products positioned with sustainable packaging messages are going to dominate categories and eventually set a baseline for market entry.

Recently, PepsiCo, Inc. announced that its LIFEWTR branded products will be packaged in 100% rPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate), and its bubly brand will no longer be packaged in plastic. The company’s AQUAFINA water brand will also offer aluminum can packaging in US foodservice outlets, while the brand tests the move in retail. The changes, which all go into effect in 2020, are expected to eliminate more than 8,000 metric tons of virgin plastic and approximately 11,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, representing the latest ambitious steps in the company’s sustainability journey and pursuit of a circular economy for plastics. The commitments reinforce and advance PepsiCo’s 2025 goal to make 100% of its packaging recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable and use 25% recycled plastic content in all its plastic packaging.

“Tackling plastic waste is one of my top priorities and I take this challenge personally,” PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta said in a press release. “As one of the world’s leading food and beverage companies, we recognize the significant role PepsiCo can play in helping to change the way society makes, uses, and disposes of plastics. We are doing our part to address the issue head on by reducing, recycling and reinventing our packaging to make it more sustainable, and we won’t stop until we live in a world where plastics are renewed and reused.”

In late 2018, the Kellogg Company announced its own Global Sustainability Commitments. All of the company’s timber-based packaging is either recycled or certified as sustainably sourced. Building upon those commitments, the company set a new goal of working towards 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by the end of 2025. 

In January, The Coca-Cola Company announced that it is fundamentally reshaping its approach to packaging, with a global goal to help collect and recycle the equivalent of 100% of its packaging by 2030. This goal is the centerpiece of the company’s new packaging vision for a World Without Waste, which the Coca-Cola system intends to back with a multi-year investment that includes ongoing work to make packaging 100% recyclable.

In June, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the country would soon ban single-use plastics. The ban follows a similar move by the European Union. Plastic cutlery and plates are among the products on the banned list. Such a ban in the US would trigger a foundational change in the foodservice space. And although such plastics are not necessarily related to food and beverage retail products, their banishment could set precedent for any product relying heavily on disposable plastics. 

Consumers and companies alike have created a context for the use of convenient, safe, disposable plastics. Now, we have the responsibility of reshaping that context for a future of reusable, sustainable food and beverage packages for the products we love to create and consume.