Materials

DS Smith replaces over 1.2bn pieces of plastic with fibre-based alternatives

Multipack of plastic with cardboard and paper replacing plastic wrapping to hold bottles togetherFibre reprocessor and packaging producer DS Smith has announced that it has replaced more than 1.2 billion pieces of plastic across its global operations, hitting its 2025 target 16 months ahead of schedule.
The company, which operates in 27 countries across Europe and North America, established the plastic replacement and reduction programme in 2020 as part of its Now & Next Sustainability Strategy. The initiative aims to reduce or completely remove primary or secondary plastic packaging from the company’s customers' products, replacing them with fibre-based alternatives.
The UK, France, and Germany have been the top three markets in terms of plastic reduction, replacing 274 million, 260 million, and 153 million pieces of plastic, respectively. In a sign of shifting consumer attitudes, DS Smith has seen a significant increase in demand for plastic replacement solutions, with the annual amount of plastic pieces replaced nearly doubling in Eastern Europe since 2020.
DS Smith attributes progress in this area to its Circular Design Principles and Circular Design Metrics, developed in partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The company's 800 designers have been trained in these principles and can assess the performance of packaging solutions based on factors such as recycled content, recyclability, estimated CO2 emissions, and waste levels.
Miles Roberts, Group Chief Executive of DS Smith, praised the team's efforts in achieving this milestone but emphasised that this is just the beginning. He commented: “When we set our Now and Next sustainability strategy, we wanted to include goals that delivered environmental change beyond as well as within DS Smith.
“[This] is very much the beginning. There are many more positive impacts we can make by supporting our customers and communities in their sustainability goals and we are extremely motivated by this mission. But it is important to note that if our customers – the biggest FMCG brands – are to remove plastics at scale and at pace, they need the right regulatory framework around them. What we need are stronger, harmonised, global, regulations that level the playing field, to help businesses move away from plastic”
The company has implemented its Circular Design Metrics across various sectors, including retail goods, food and beverages, automotive parts, and industrial devices. Everyday plastic items that have been replaced include fruit and vegetable punnets, plastic carriers, and shrink-wrap commonly found on soft drink bottles.