Coca-Cola to double recycled plastic content in bottles

Ambitions for increased rPET content will be realised with the help of Clean Tech's recycling plant in Lincolnshire

Coca-Cola European Partners has pledged to double the amount of recycled plastic used in its bottles in Great Britain, as part of a new sustainability strategy launched today. 

At present, bottles contain 25% recycled PET (rPET). This will be doubled to 50% by 2020.

In addition, Coca-Cola says it will ‘champion reform’ of the packaging recycling system in Great Britain to encourage more people to recycle, with a focus on increasing packaging collection and recycling rates and deposit return schemes.

But Greenpeace, which has been putting pressure on Coca-Cola regarding plastic pollution, says the commitments don't go far enough. It says 100% recycled content should be 'completely realistic'.

Lincolnshire bottle repossessing facility

The increase in recycled plastic content in bottles will be realized through a partnership with Clean Tech, which operates Europe’s biggest plastic bottle repossessing facility in Lincolnshire.

Coca-Cola already uses 10,000 tonnes of recycled plastic in its bottles each year in Great Britain from this facility; and since the partnership with Clean Tech began in 2012 it has recycled the equivalent of 2 billion bottles to be used in its packaging.

Recycled bottles can return to shop shelves as rPET in new packs in six weeks.

Every day, around 16 million plastic bottles are littered or end up in landfill.

Responding to Coca-Cola’s announcement, the charity Keep Britain Tidy says it is a ‘step forward’ to have a global brand promote new solutions and changes in behavior.

“We hope that this inspires others to step up and help bring about the changes required,” said chief executive Allison Ogden-Newton. 

Other commitments in Coca-Cola European Partners’ new sustainability strategy include:

  • Promoting recycling and encouraging behavior change among consumers

    Coca-Cola says it can leverage the power of its brands to encourage consumers to recycle more. A multi-million pound communications campaign will be launched later this month across TV, cinema and digital. The company will also put a new recycling message on bottles and promote recycling and festivals and events.

  • ‘Championing reform’ of the UK recycling system so that more packaging is recovered and recycled

    In an effort to support the growth of the circular economy in Great Britain, Coca-Cola says it will champion new interventions that have potential to increase packaging collection and recycling rates, including stronger recycling targets, deposit return schemes and extended producer responsibility.

Greenpeace

Coca-Cola's previous recycled content target was 40%, today's announcement ups it to 50%. 

Greenpeace says that 100% recycled content is 'completely realistic and we should expect nothing less from Coke'. 

Responding to Coca-Cola's announcement, Greenpeace has pledged to keep up the pressure on the company. 

Leendert den Hollander, Vice President and General Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners GB, said:  Our goal is to work with local and national partners to ensure all of our packaging is recovered and recycled. Our new strategy sets out how we will start work to achieve that.

“We have focused on the actions we can take as a business – such as our ability to communicate to consumers on the importance of recycling – as well as the areas where we want to work in close collaboration with others to reduce litter and increase the recovery and recycling of plastic bottles."

Den Hollander added that the pledge to double the amount of recycled material used in plastic bottles sends a ‘clear signal’ that it wants to support the circular economy in Great Britain.

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

Coca-Cola says its new sustainability strategy builds on previous efforts. All bottles and cans are already 100% recyclable, and it has reduced the weight of packs (a 500ml Coca-Cola bottle now weighs 19g, around 50% less than in 1994; while caps now weigh 2g, 20% less than in 2014).

Smartwater and Honest Tea use Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle, which contains up to 30% plastic made from plant materials.

Chris Brown, Managing Director at Clean Tech, said “We are pleased Coca-Cola is making a significant commitment to increase the recycled content in bottles. 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.”

In the UK, around 57% of bottles are recycled and around 70% of cans are recycled.

Coca-Cola European Partners is also trialling an on-the-go bottle collection and reward program, which will examine the behavioral impact of reward schemes.

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