Mexico and Chile

PepsiCo's big LatAm recycling push

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, July 06, 2021
PepsiCo's big LatAm recycling push

Over the last decade, several countries in Latin America have introduced bans on certain types of plastics in an effort to reduce waste accumulation. While most have focused on plastic bags, Chile went one step further in May and became the first in the region to ban the commercialization of single use plastics in prepared food.

Efforts are also underway to promote recycling among plastics manufacturers, such as Chile’s producers’ extended responsibility (REP) bill. On that front, firms such as PepsiCo are now investing in recycling programs of their own.

In PepsiCo’s case, the firm began with the Recycling with Purpose program in 2019, with the aim of having its packaging 100% recyclable by 2025. BNamericas spoke with Erick Scheel, president of PepsiCo Latin America Beverages, about this and other recycling efforts of the company in the region.


BNamericas: What sustainability efforts is PepsiCo carrying out in Latin America?

Scheel: Sustainability is an integral part of our business and informs all aspects of our operations from how we manufacture our products to how we inspire positive change in our communities. At PepsiCo we’re guided by our vision of Winning with Purpose. This reflects our ambition to win sustainably in the marketplace and accelerate our top line growth, while keeping our commitment to have a positive impact in the planet and our communities. 

Our strategy to address climate change is based on two pillars – mitigation and adaptation. We are looking for ways to decarbonize our entire value chain while assessing the impacts of climate change on our business and developing resiliency plans. By the end of 2021, 15 countries in PepsiCo’s direct operations are expected to be fully sourcing renewable electricity. 

PepsiCo doubled down on its science-based climate goal in early 2021, targeting a reduction of absolute GHG emissions across its value chain by more than 40% by 2030. It is striving to reduce absolute GHG emissions across its direct operations by 75% and its indirect value chain by 40% by 2030 (against a 2015 baseline). This action is expected to result in the reduction of more than 26mn tons of GHG emissions or the equivalent of taking more than 5mn cars off the road for a full year.

In regards to water, PepsiCo LAB takes a holistic approach to water management across their global supply chain, improving water use in agriculture and giving access to potable water to more people. We have reduced water consumption in Latin America by 20% in beverages, thanks to a solid collaboration with our bottling partners. In addition, through our PepsiCo Foundation we have provided access to safe drinking water to more than 778,000 people in dispersed rural areas (Colombia, Honduras, Mexico and Peru), through grants totaling US$7mn from 2011 to 2016. In 2020 alone, PepsiCo replenished in excess of 3.2bn liters of water into local watersheds working in collaboration with local and international partners like The Nature Conservancy.

When it comes to packaging, at PepsiCo we are striving to build a world where plastics need never become waste. We are incorporating more recycled content, making our packaging recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable, and streamlining packaging material. 

In Latin America, we’re also investing in glass and plastic reusable bottles. A great initiative to highlight is the RECO bottle, which is a regular PET bottle that consumers can return in stores (traditional channel) to ensure that the bottles will be recycled and to obtain a new bottle. The RECO bottle is currently available in Argentina, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Peru.

Throughout its complex global value chain, PepsiCo is helping to build diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces, and investing to support prosperity in local communities. As of 2020, women and men currently earn within 1% of each other and women hold 41% of PepsiCo’s manager positions worldwide.

BNamericas: How much is PepsiCo Latin America investing in plastic recycling?

Scheel: Since 2018, PepsiCo and The PepsiCo Foundation committed to invest over US$65mn in global recycling partnership initiatives to elevate recycling rates and waste collection. We’ve developed a ‘vision of sustainable plastics’ to achieve this and so that our packaging never becomes waste. That vision consists of reducing the plastic we use, recycling the plastic we buy and bring to market, and reinventing packaging and the plastics we use. 

Reduce: At PepsiCo, we aim to design all our packaging with the most efficient use of materials possible. We have made our PET bottles lighter to reduce the amount of packaging and shipping material to achieve the most efficient use of resources possible. We’re also striving to reduce virgin plastic use across our beverage portfolio by 35%. 

Recycle: In Latin America Beverages, 93% of the materials we use in our packaging are recyclable, and we continue working on solutions for the 7% that is not. By 2025 100% of our packaging will be recyclable. We are also incorporating more recycled PET (rPET) content into our bottles across the portfolio. 

PepsiCo has focused on supporting Latin America’s inclusive recycling system for over 12 years. Recently, we launched Recycling with Purpose – a circular economy program that supports inclusive recycling and makes it easier and convenient for consumers to recycle. PepsiCo also joined forces with actors from the private sector and international organizations through the LatitudR platform, which supports the development of inclusive recycling systems in the region. 

Reinvent: The Eco-Challenge is also part of our commitment to sustainable innovation. The Eco-Challenge is a special category for sustainable innovation in the Talent and Innovation Competition of the Americas (TIC Americas), which was created in 2009 by the Young Americas Business Trust (YABT), the Organization of American States (OAS), and PepsiCo Latin America. It promotes a new vision of plastic and contributes to a sustainable future in Latin America and the Caribbean to identify scalable and sustainable solutions that will allow the industry and the consumer to go beyond the traditional use of plastic. Participants receive professional advice and mentorship that allows them to refine their ideas. Winners receive a US$5,000 prize, the opportunity to work with different partners as PepsiCo and their bottlers, and the chance for investors to finance their projects.

BNamericas: Regarding the Recycling with Purpose program. What are the chances of bringing this initiative to the rest of Latin America?

Scheel: We are committed to fostering innovative and sustainable practices while encouraging participation across all levels of society from individuals and across all sectors. We already launched our Recycling with Purpose platform in Peru and Guatemala. We are planning to launch in Colombia and Brazil this year and in three additional countries by 2022. We are excited to continue developing collaborations with recyclers across the region and fostering partnerships that allow us to expand the Recycling with Purpose program to more markets.

BNamericas: Which Latin American countries have advanced the most in recycling during the last decade?

Scheel: Countries across the region are making important strides to improve their recycling systems. However, there is one program that I would like to highlight: ECOCE in Mexico. It is an industry recycling association created in 2002 to manage the National Collective Private Waste Management Plan. ECOCE brings together the private sector, government, and civil society to create a recycling system for packaging of consumer products. The purpose is to achieve a circular economy solution for packaging, focused on collecting and recycling post-consumer waste. It also has the role of raising awareness and educating consumers through collection and recycling programs.

Our regional efforts also include LatitudeR, a cross-sectoral platform, managed by AVINA and with participation of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), whose members include private companies and recycler associations. The initiative helps develop inclusive and innovative recycling systems by formalizing and improving the conditions of grassroots recyclers. Since its inception, it has supported 19,409 recyclers and collected 5.4mn tons of waste. More details can be seen at

Finally, the public can access our newly released 2020 Sustainability report here:


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