Asserting that unrecyclable packaging wastes resources and contributes to the growing pollution of world oceans, our 2014 shareholder resolution asking Mondelez International to assess the risks on unrecyclable brand packaging received 28.4% shareholder support representing $11.8 billion worth of shares at the food manufacturer’s annual meeting. Using unrecyclable packaging when alternatives are available leads to increased use of virgin materials and wastes enormous amounts of valuable resources that could be reused many times over.
In October 2012, Kraft changed its name to Mondelez International (MDLZ), and spun off its grocery business to a new company called Kraft Foods Group (KRFT). Mondelez retains the snack food part of the business. As You Sow re-filed an extended producer responsibility (EPR) proposal with Mondelez for 2013, receiving a vote result of 9.5%, which maintains pressure on the company while allowing us the option to file the proposal again if necessary.
Many Mondelez products, including family favorites like Oreo cookies, are packaged in thin, unrecyclable plastic film, when they could easily be sold in cardboard packaging. In our new video Designed to Be Waste, Captain Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Institute, notes that the most common microplastics found in ocean debris are thin plastic films like those used to package Oreo cookies.
Another concern is the growing trend of companies using pouches made of aluminum foil/plastic laminate to package cookies, juices, and other foods and snacks. This packaging cannot be recycled into new pouches and is rarely collected for any kind of post-consumer recovery. Mondelez sells many products in these pouches, including bite-size Mini Oreos and Mini Chips Ahoy! cookies. Shareholders should be concerned that the company is selling packaging that is designed to be dumped in a landfill. There is no reason to be marketing unrecyclable packaging to kids and families when better alternatives have been on the market for decades.
On the issue of responsibility for recycling post-consumer packaging, Mondelez lags its peers. While no major consumer products company has yet embraced EPR for packaging in the United States, some competitors have taken encouraging initial steps. Unilever has acknowledged some responsibility for increasing packaging recycling rates. It made a public commitment to increase recycling rates for packaging it uses in 14 major countries (including the U.S.) where it does business 5% by 2015 and 20% by 2020. We’d like to see Mondelez match or exceed that commitment.
As demonstrated by Colgate’s announcement that they are transitioning to 100% recyclable packaging for three of four product divisions by 2020, companies can work with investors to create better packaging and improve their environmental impact. Investors recognize the risk to Mondelez’s brand posed by its throwaway packaging, and they want Mondelez to act to develop recyclable alternatives.
Read more about our engagements with Mondelez below.