Circular Economy: Challenges Meeting Recycled Plastic Targets

Current Head of Sustainability at Danone, Brazil.

Why is this interview interesting?

  • Major challenges and barriers for CPG companies to meet recycled plastic targets in packaging for consumer goods
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Executive Bio

Ligia Camargo

Current Head of Sustainability at Danone, Brazil.

Ligia Camargo started working in Sustainability at Unilever in 2010 when the area was first being developed within large CPG companies. She was part of a global team that launched Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan which, together with HR and the Sustainability Committee, aimed to educate at least 90% of the company on the role of sustainability. Ligia then worked with each brand within the group to build an adherence strategy to various sustainability metrics. She then moved to become Head of Sustainability at Danone in Brazil in 2017 where she is responsible for corporate communications and sustainability strategies for the region across all Danone brands. Read more

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Interview Transcript

Unilever had committed to 25% recycled plastic in their packaging of products, by 2025. What do you think is the biggest challenge for them to meet this target?

I know a lot of companies that are working with the same challenges and I work with the same challenges with plastic. Nowadays, throughout the entire world, the biggest challenge we are facing, in the short term, is the availability of good plastic, at a competitive cost for the supply chain. As recycling is not as democratic as we would like it to be, we are facing some difficulties in getting good plastic to be remanufactured, at good prices.

It is part of a very complex chain that moves from side to side. Everything starts when we segregate material to go to recycling. If we do not do it at the beginning of the cycle, we will not have the good plastic segregated in the right way. I really believe that big companies, like Danone or Unilever, Cocoa-Cola, need to increase the level, the percentage of the recycled plastic in their packaging, to push the line; to move these chains of recycling in the entire world.

Because that will create demand, for the recyclers to then spend money? If you look at the format design, the materials used, additives and the pigment used in the plastic for the products, what is the biggest challenge in actually increasing the recycled plastic, in the packaging?

In Danone, we have the challenges of regulation. In some materials, we cannot have recycled plastic in contact with food, because of contamination. So we need to develop technologies enough, to guarantee the efficiency and the security, the food security, for the new package that will be developed for a new cycle of usage.

Of course, cost is a top three priority in the main challenges that we have for this new design. The second is, I believe, that we are facing an issue with availability of materials, to develop and design new packages, in a way that it can be, not only recycled, but also available to be recycled. It can be virgin, but needs to be, first of all, 100% recyclable.

The third is, we have two kinds of packaging. We have the packaging that can be recyclable and we have the packaging that is recycled. We cannot say that all plastics are recyclable, because there is no technology, sometimes, that can recycle that material. We have these two levels of recyclability.

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Circular Economy: Challenges Meeting Recycled Plastic Targets(November 21, 2019)

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