Mondelez International Inc.: Request for Report on Recyclable Packaging
WHEREAS: Mondelēz International’s environmental policy states the company “is committed to reducing the environmental impact of our activities, preventing pollution and promoting the sustainability of the natural resources upon which we depend…” yet a significant amount of brand product packaging is not recyclable and new studies suggest plastic packaging that degrades in waterways is toxic to marine animals and potentially to humans. The environmental cost to society of consumer plastic products and packaging exceeds $139 billion annually, according to the American Chemistry Council. Mondelēz’s specific use of plastic materials incurs an estimated $115 million in annual environmental costs.
Our iconic brands like Oreo and Chips Ahoy are increasingly packaged in flexible film or other plastic packaging, such as pouches, that are not recyclable. Using non-recyclable packaging when recyclable alternatives are available wastes valuable resources. Only 14% of plastic packaging is recycled. Billions of discarded plastic wrappers and pouches representing significant amounts of embedded energy are incinerated or lie buried in landfills. Many of these brands could be sold in recyclable fiber or plastic packaging.
Non-recyclable packaging is more likely to be littered and carried into waterways. In the marine environment, plastics break down into small indigestible particles that birds and marine mammals mistake for food, resulting in illness and death. A recent assessment of marine debris by a panel of the Global Environment Facility concluded that an underlying cause of debris entering oceans is “design and marketing of products internationally without appropriate regard to their environmental fate or ability to be recycled in the locations where sold…”
If no actions are taken, oceans are expected to contain more plastic than fish by 2050! California spends nearly $500 million annually preventing trash, including packaging, from polluting beaches, rivers, and oceanfront. Scientific studies suggest a synergistic effect between persistent toxic chemicals and plastic debris. Plastics absorb toxics such as dioxins from water and transfer them to the marine food web and potentially to human diets, increasing the risk of adverse effects to wildlife and humans.
Making all packaging recyclable to the extent possible is the first step to reduce the threat posed by plastic debris in waterways. Colgate-Palmolive, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Walmart have set public packaging recyclability goals. Companies who aspire to corporate sustainability yet use these risky materials should explain why they use so much non-recyclable packaging. Companies should also work with recyclers and municipalities to assure that more recyclable packaging actually gets collected and recycled.
RESOLVED: Shareowners of Mondelēz International request the Board to issue a report at reasonable cost, omitting confidential information, assessing the environmental impacts of continuing to use non-recyclable brand packaging.
Supporting Statement: Proponents believe the report should include an assessment of the reputational, financial, and operational risks associated with continuing to use non-recyclable brand packaging, discuss investments in packaging recycling technologies, and to the extent possible, goals and a timeline to phase out non-recyclable packaging.