How the Largest Food & Beverage Brands are Attempting to Handle the Plastic Crisis in 2024

Alex Schulze , CEO/Co-Founder

As environmental concerns mount and plastic pollution continues to grow, the Food and Beverage sector has become increasingly focused on sustainability - particularly in packaging. And for good reason. A new 2024 study using pollution data from 2018–2022 across 84 countries found that 56 global companies are responsible for more than half of all branded plastic pollution, with the top four brands (the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Nestlé, and Danone) together accounting for over 20%. But while there is a lot of progress to be made on the packaging front (particularly by these MNCs), there is hope, too. These four global brands are all taking steps towards addressing their own packaging and supply chains and tackling the plastic crisis head-on.


Coca-Cola’s recycling goals as a company include making 100% of its packaging recyclable globally by 2025 and using at least 50% recycled material in its packaging by 2030, and they are well on their way to completing both. In 2021, Coca‑Cola North America launched its first bottles made with 100% recycled PET (rPET). Coca‑Cola was also the first company in India to launch a one-liter rPET bottle, and they expanded their rPET selection in the country last year.

The company aims to make more packaging changes in the near future, too. Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages, a local Coca-Cola bottler serving the northeastern US including New York City, will collaborate with WestRock, a sustainable packaging solutions provider, to make the leap from plastic rings to recyclable paperboard carriers for multipack bottled beverages, with a goal to replace 200,000 pounds of plastic a year.


“Collaboration is key to progress on our ambition to eliminate virgin fossil-based plastic…in Europe by the end of 2030,” says Archana Jagannathan, chief sustainability officer at PepsiCo Europe. PepsiCo has taken this to heart, from working with GreenDot on snack packaging that contains 50% recycled plastic film to helping reduce packaging waste at UEFA Champions League events last month to collaborating with other industry giants such as Nestle and Danone with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Plastics Initiative. While a long way from their target of reducing their absolute tonnage of virgin plastic derived from non-renewable sources by 20%, they are helping tackle the plastic problem through innovation. Back in 2011, PepsiCo launched a bioPET bottle in Mexico made with raw materials such as pine bark and corn husks, creating the world's first PET bottle made entirely from plant-based renewable resources.


In addition to being a partner in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Plastics Initiative, Nestle has been working to improve recycling infrastructure in the countries where it operates, such as with an $8.7 million investment in a UK recycling plant that will process challenging-to-recycle flexible plastics. With an ambitious vision that none of its packaging ends up in landfills or as litter, Nestle is “making progress in reducing our overall packaging, making it more recyclable, and using renewable or recycled materials in our packaging,” according to Antonia Wanner, Nestlé’s head of ESG Strategy and Deployment. By the end of last year, Nestle had achieved an impressive 14.9% virgin plastic reduction from their 2018 baseline, although they’ll need to make strides this year in order to achieve their goal of reducing virgin plastics by one third of 2018 levels by 2025.


Danone has pledged to use 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2030 and halve the use of virgin fossil-based packaging by 2040. As part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Plastics Initiative, Danone aims to improve closed-loop recycling and the recycling of hard-to-recycle packaging and materials. Through partnerships with clean technology company Loop Industries, Danone’s evian mineral water is available in a label-free, 100% recyclable (excluding the cap) rPET bottle and in aluminum cans. Danone is 58% of its way towards its unique goal of recovering as much plastic as the company uses by 2040, underpinning their commitment to plastic reduction.