Why CPG Brands Must Evolve Or Risk Death By Plastic

Every day, the majority of consumers buy, use and throw away packaged goods without giving that packaging a second thought. Last month the UN launched a new global initiative, Parley for the Oceans, to raise awareness for the "beauty and fragility of our oceans and collaborate on projects that can end destruction." The main culprit for this destruction? Plastic. Our love affair with plastic is quite simply killing the planet, and the bulk of CPG brands are responsible for adding fuel to this fire.

A few facts for you: 

  • By 2025 scientists predict that all coral reef ecosystems in the world will be gone
  • There is more plastic in our oceans than plankton 
  • 135,000 whales are entangled by plastic marine debris every year in addition to the inestimable – but likely millions – of birds, turtles, fish and other species affected by plastic marine debris
  • 40 million pounds of plastic has accumulated and is floating in the north pacific ocean alone



Image credit: Chris Jordan, Midway Film

The UN believes that in order to stop this, everyone must collaborate to drive change. Brands are in a position where they can use their influence to re-wire and mobilize individuals to choose alternatives. 

The UN’s mantra is to: 

  • Avoid = cut down plastic use. 
  • Intercept = catch plastic waste before it enters the oceans. 
  • Reclaim = retrieve plastic from shores and recycle it. 
  • Redesign = replace plastic in products, create new materials. 

So what can CPG brands do to disrupt this cycle and drive the clean-up and reduction of plastic?

Coca-Cola recently unveiled the world’s first PET plastic bottle made entirely from plant materials, a further development and commitment to their Plant Bottle. They also support this innovation through investment in companies that collect and recover these bottles so they can be recycled and used again. 

Unilever has long been committed to change via their sustainable living program and recently unveiled an extension to that at Cannes by way of their Foundry IDEAS Platform which crowdsources sustainable solutions, including a challenge on Better Packaging. 

Clif Bar & Company’s sustainable energy message is part of their brand's DNA. Not only do they partner with companies like Terra Cycle to create waste stream solutions through “upcycling,” or creating usable goods from items previously considered waste, but through this program they also empower schools to collect their packaging and trade it in for equipment like backpacks for kids, starting the education on plastics at a young age. 

These are all huge steps, but ultimately when it comes to CPG, consumers are left with little choice but to purchase their products in the plastic they are most often packaged in and go on to recycle it on their own terms. CPG brands need to go beyond simply recycling "education" and fundamentally start to change the way they package and distribute. 

Tide Pods is a great example of a brand which successfully set out to fundamentally change consumer behavior and succeeded. They challenged consumers to not only wash clothes in cold water, therefore reducing energy used, but to also trust that their tiny concentrated pods packaged in recyclable tub or lightweight bag would do the job. Not only have they been successful in doing this, they have the sales to back it up, too. 

So, if these companies can do it, who's to say other CPG brands can't step up to the challenge? Brands, take the time to go a step further. Rethink your packaging. Refine your messaging. Enlighten and educate consumers to see a better way of doing things. Then give them the tools to act on it.

2 comments about "Why CPG Brands Must Evolve Or Risk Death By Plastic".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Kate Berg from Collective Bias, August 3, 2015 at 10:29 a.m.

    So happy to see you writing about this huge problem. Thank you. I will share this piece.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 3, 2015 at 4:05 p.m.

    This problem continues to ships and garbage/recycling centers who may be shifting their responsibilites to dumping. Manufacturers cannot depend upon their customers or the other industries. It must start at the root.

Next story loading loading..