March 7, 2018
Packaging plays a critical role in preserving the safety, nutrition and quality of the food we make. It also presents challenges in terms of raw materials used in production as well as the waste generated when improper disposal occurs. We share the global concern about the effects of plastic packaging on the environment, especially the accumulation of ocean plastic waste and associated threats to marine life.
As responsible stewards of natural resources, we aim to reduce our environmental impact from field to fork to landfill. Our sustainability efforts include reducing the impacts of packaging. In the United States, Canada and Europe, paper represents over 70 percent of the packaging material used while plastic packaging represents 12 percent.
Product packaging, such as yogurt cups and cereal box liners, are made from plastic. Packaging such as cereal and snack boxes are made from paper, a renewable resource that is widely recycled. We’re proud to use 100 percent recycled paperboard in most markets globally and we promote recycled cardboard when we can assure its safety and efficacy. Across all packaging formats, we work to reduce the environmental impact of packaging materials and to innovate to increase recycled content while ensuring recyclability.
Three key strategies drive our work to reduce the impact of packaging production and waste.
The first is our climate ambition, through which we are working to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions occurring within our packaging supply chain, which represents 8 percent of our total value chain emissions.
The second is our commitment to sustainably source 100 percent of our fiber packaging by 2020. For each of these commitments, we measure and report publicly on an annual basis.
The third strategy is packaging innovation, a critical driver in our quest to create a more sustainable value chain.
Although plastics are not the primary packaging material we use, we recognize the heightened global environmental concerns related to plastic waste. For this reason, we’re taking several steps to develop more sustainable plastic packaging in key areas:
Increasing recycled and recyclable materials
We recognize that consumer awareness and action is essential to reducing all packaging waste. In Europe and Asia, we are increasing consumer awareness about plastic packaging recycling options through sorting instruction labeling. In the U.S., through How2Recycle and other global labeling programs, we provide consistent, consumer friendly recycling information on packages. Today, two-thirds of our products, including all U.S. cereal and applicable meal products, now include How2Recycle labels. We’re also working to make portable single serve packaging and other flexible pouches similarly recyclable.
Innovating to make our materials better
We actively seek more sustainable materials in the early phases of packaging design. For example, we launched a bio-sourced plastic film – partially made of plant-based materials - for Cascadian Farm cereal box liners. This change in materials replaces the impacts of about 600,000 pounds of plastic annually. This bio-film increases the sustainability of raw materials, reduces the packaging carbon footprint and does not affect the recyclability of the material in any way.
We recognize the value of post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic to reduce both our dependence on new plastics as well as the carbon footprint of our packaging. There are, however, unique challenges to using PCR for food packaging as food safety is the priority at every step of production. We are committed to continuing to research and develop PCR-based packaging solutions for food products. As an example, we have piloted PCR box liners for Annie’s cereals.
We continually innovate to reduce packaging’s environmental impact through better design, by decreasing the amount of material used and switching to lower impact materials.
Leading Through External Collaboration
We advocate for education and strong public policy solutions to increase recovery of plastics. General Mills holds leadership positions and is involved in organizations that increase awareness of sustainable packaging options. We also advocate for policy changes to increase recovery. Organizations include AMERIPEN, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, the Association of Plastics Recyclers, Citeo, Packnext and five Canadian stewardship organizations.
Global Responsibility Report 2018