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P&G’s Sweet Eco-Packaging Plan

Gisele Bündchen, a Pantene brand ambassador, helped spread the word about P&G's new recyclable plastic initiative.

Procter & Gamble Co. will begin a two-year global pilot of a new type of renewable, substainable and recyclable plastic in 2011 made from Brazilian sugarcane, beginning with several items within its Pantene, Cover Girl and Max Factor beauty brands. The new sugarcane-based plastic, said Gina Drosos, group president, Global P&G Beauty, will be sourced from Brazil-based Braskem SA, which manufactures the material using ethanol made from sustainably grown Brazilian sugarcane, which is then shipped to various P&G manufacturing plants in Latin America for filling.

Drosos could not specify when in 2011 the launch would occur, or how much — if any — cost would be incurred by the company, but said “we are not planning on this making an incremental cost to consumers.” So, in effect, prices of the beauty items utilizing the new packaging will remain unchanged, and the packaging shift will be undetectable to consumers, Drosos said. She added, “Significant parts of select items of the typical petroleum-based plastic will be replaced with this new sugarcane-based plastic. ”

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The significance of the move is that P&G is not just using a renewable ingredient, such as sugarcane, but that it is also sustainable and 100 percent recyclable, unlike some other bio-based plastics, such as wheat and corn.

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According to Jenny Rushmore, global sustainability leader, P&G Beauty & Grooming, “The sugar renews itself at the same rate as the plastic is being used. That is important criteria for it’s sustainability.”

The company said it had been working on the effort for more than three years.

While P&G’s “brand teams are working on the best way” to communicate the green effort to consumers when products hit shelves next year, consumers found out Thursday about the news via Gisele Bündchen, Pantene’s celebrity endorser in Brazil, during a Pantene event in her home country.