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Coca-Cola unveils strategy to double recycled plastic usage

coca cola plastics

Coca-Cola has unveiled a sustainable packaging strategy for the UK which includes doubling the use of recycled plastic in its bottles to 50% by 2020 and testing an on-the-go bottle collection and reward programme.

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) also says it will work with local and national partners to recover all of its packaging, increasing recycling rates and reducing litter.

The new strategy is focused on three areas:

  • Continuing to innovate to ensure packaging is as sustainable as possible, including lightweighting; ensuring all its cans and bottles are 100% recyclable; and using recycled materials. The company wants to double the amount of recycled plastic in PET bottles from an average 25% to 50% by 2020
  • Investing in consumer communication to promote recycling and to encourage behaviour change
  • Promoting reform of the UK recycling system to ensure more packaging is recovered and recycled, including increased packaging collection and recycling rates, stronger recycling targets, deposit return schemes and extended producer responsibility

The initiatives follow significant media coverage of low recycling rates for plastics and widespread concern over ocean plastic pollution. According to Greenpeace, the top six drinks companies in the world use a combined average of just 6.6% of recycled plastic (PET) in their products.

Leendert den Hollander, CCEP vice-president and general manager, said the company had always been committed to reducing the environmental impact of its packaging.

“We have ensured that all our bottles and cans are 100% recyclable; we have reduced the weight of our packs as much as possible; and have a longstanding commitment to use locally sourced rPET and other recycled materials in our packaging.

“Our desire to double the amount of recycled material we use in our plastic bottles sends a clear signal that we want to play a positive role in supporting the circular economy here in Great Britain.

“Our ambition – and our ability to go further in the future – will require reform of the packaging collection system, and we will work with others to champion the changes that are required to ensure all our valuable materials are recovered.”

By joining up the campaigning messages, the collection and capture of recyclables, and also the remanufacture processes, Coca-Cola is demonstrating clear leadership

Paul Vanston, Incpen

Marcus Gover, chief executive of WRAP, added: “A commitment that half of all the plastic they use will be recycled plastic, understanding that this will cost the business more, shows real leadership in the industry and provides the essential market for recovered materials.

“Initiatives like this are much needed if we are to change consumer behaviour and recover and recycle more.”

Paul Vanston, the new chief executive of Incpen, said: “By joining up the campaigning messages, the collection and capture of recyclables, and also the remanufacture processes, Coca-Cola is demonstrating clear leadership.”

Jane Bevis, chair of OPRL, said consumers want clear, consistent and simple information on how to recycle or dispose of packaging.

“We applaud the extra steps CCEP is taking in engaging its consumers, through campaigns at festivals, marketing and further calls to action on-pack, and look forward to continuing our close partnership in influencing consumer behaviour.

“We believe very strongly that this leadership should be reflected in a reformed producer responsibility system that recognises and rewards responsible producers like CCEP.”

coca cola can recycling

coca cola can recycling

Coca-Cola operates in the UK as two businesses – Coca-Cola Great Britain and its bottling partner CCEP, which is to continue its partnership with Clean Tech.

Clean Tech operates Europe’s largest plastic bottle reprocessing facility in Lincolnshire, allowing recycled bottles to return to shop shelves as part of new packs within two months. The site was originally operated by Eco-Plastics under a joint venture with Coca-Cola. 

Chris Brown, managing director at Clean Tech, said: “Our significant partnership with Coca-Cola actively demonstrates the increasing demand for high-quality recycled plastic in the drinks industry. We want to provide manufacturers like Coca-Cola with even more of this material, but to do that the first step is to recover more used bottles.”

  • A version of this article first appeared in our sister title Packaging News

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