It was a great day for Fonterra at this year’s virtual 2020 NZ Cheese Awards.
The co-op will stop sending solid waste to landfill by 2025 and will by then have 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging.
These are the right things to do and even more important as more consumers choose products that are environmentally friendly, says the co-op’s director of sustainability, Carolyn Mortland.
About 90% of Fonterra products sold in New Zealand are already recyclable and this is now the aim worldwide, Mortland says.
“We export 95% of our local production to at least 140 countries, so our supply chain is complex, with different infrastructure in each market.
“NZ has its own challenges, e.g. Auckland is the only city with the facilities to fill glass bottles.
“For glass to be a more sustainable alternative to plastic, bottles must be re-used several times before recycling. Moving heavy glass... back-and-forth to Auckland for cleaning and re-using would cause a lot of emissions.
“We’ve looked into it but without a well developed nationwide system to sterilise and fill bottles for re-use at scale, it’s not viable.”
NZ-wide and worldwide, households and businesses are grappling with how to deal with waste. The world daily generates 3.5 million tonnes of plastic and other solid waste – 10 times that of 100 years ago, says the World Bank.
And one third of all food produced is lost or wasted.
Mortland says the co-op will maintain food safety and quality whatever packaging it uses. Packaging can extend the shelf-life of a product and so reduce food waste, so it can be a balancing act.
Achieving Fonterra’s new targets will require innovative thinking and collaboration, “building on the work we’re already doing with Future Post to recycle Anchor milk bottles into fence posts, and Sky City to turn bottles into shampoo, conditioner and lotion bottles.”
Dairy by-products are now diverted from landfill by Fonterra’s subsidiary NZAgbiz and used pallets are turned into woodchips by Timpack and Enviromulch for spreading on playgrounds.
The co-op is moving towards a circular economy, says Carolyn Mortland.
“We’re not the first with these kinds of targets, but we have to be doing our bit, perhaps inspiring other brands and companies to consider the impact of their waste and packaging on the environment.”
The targets are among the co-op’s wider efforts to improve and reduce its environmental footprint across its business.
“We believe in putting sustainability at the heart of everything we do, being genuine about our approach and playing our part. We care about NZ’s natural environment and its protection and regeneration for generations to come.”