This week Procter & Gamble will announce the release of a new sugarcane plastic packaging for Pantene’s Nature Fusion line. The new plant-based plastic is set to debut in Western Europe this month, with a global rollout to come in 18-24 months.
The bottles will be categorized as plastic #2 and can be recycled using the same process as those plastics made with petroleum, according to Randall Chinchilla, spokesperson for Global Pantene.
“The properties of this [plant-based] packaging are identical to those of petroleum-based HDPE,” says Chinchilla. “The only way you can tell them apart is by carbon dating them – petroleum and takes millions of years to form, and the sugarcane takes only one year.”
In the past, Procter & Gamble has been called out for its usage of chemicals in its cosmetics and beauty product lines. Asked about how the company will respond to these critics, Chinchilla says there have been “very smart questions,” but the tonality of consumers and media has been “overall positive” so far.
“It’s a step, but it’s not small. It’s important,” he says, noting that Pantene is the largest beauty brand at Procter & Gamble. “We’re hoping that stakeholders and consumers understand it that way, too. But by no means do we imply that this is changing the way business is done.”
Chinchilla says consumer demand will utlimately influence the company’s manufacturing process. “Ultimately, for everything we do in sustainability, we believe that you have to deliver the same product,” he says, citing a Procter & Gamble study that found that 70 percent of consumers are interested in products that improve sustainability, but they don’t want to sacrifice quality.
Chinchilla notes that the upfront cost of manufacturing the sugarcane plastic is higher than the current petroleum-based packaging. “But our point of view is that it is an important investment that puts us at the forefront of sustainability [...] We believe that over time this technology will become more mainstream, and those investments will pay out.”