Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), in partnership with Coca-Cola Great Britain, has announced that all plastic bottles across all its core brands, including Diet Coke, Sprite and Doctor Pepper, made in Great Britain are now made with 50 per cent recycled plastic (rPET).
This will mean that Coca-Cola in Great Britain is now using over 21,000 tonnes of recycled plastic per year and the average recycled content in the company’s plastic bottles will increase from 25 per cent.
Coca-Cola is part of the World Without Waste global commitment to use 50 per cent of recycled material in all bottles and cans by 2030.
The company initially made the commitment to move towards 50 per cent recycled content in its bottles across all brands in 2017, following a deal with Clean Tech, the operators of the largest bottle reprocessing plant in the UK, which Coca-Cola helped to establish in 2012.
Coca-Cola has made similar commitments in other markets, it recently announced plans to transition toward 100 per cent rPET in the Netherlands and Norway.
Coca-Cola’s bottles will now carry new labels notifying consumers of the change in an attempt to encourage them to recycle the bottle.
Coca-Cola's achievement of 50 per cent recycled content is timely, given the government's announcement that it will be introducing a Plastics Tax on all packaging containing less than 30 per cent recycled content in 2021.
Stephen Moorhouse, General Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners Great Britain, said: “One of the key challenges the industry currently faces is that there isn’t enough food-grade recycled plastic locally available in the UK to switch to 100 per cent rPET across our entire range. There needs to be more high-quality recycled plastic produced, so it’s vital to make sure we collect more bottles in an efficient way, and stop it ending up as waste. “Although all our bottles have been 100 per cent recyclable for many years, too many are still not being recycled. That’s why we support the introduction of a well-designed deposit return scheme (DRS), consistent across Great Britain and coupled with investment in infrastructure. This will really encourage more people to recycle and will help more bottles to be collected in a clean, efficient way so that they can be remade into new bottles again.”
While now being supportive of a 'well-designed' deposit return scheme, Coca-Cola used to oppose the introduction of a DRS in Scotland, until the leaking of internal papers led to a U-turn.
CCEP has also recently been funding CuRe Technology – a recycling start-up which seeks to provide a new lease of life for difficult to recycle plastic polyester waste. Once operational, it is hoped that CuRe will support CCEP and The Coca-Cola Company’s ambition to eliminate virgin oil-based PET from its PET bottles within the next decade. In Great Britain, Coca-Cola has worked closely with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) for 20 years. They both invested in Recycle Zone on-the-go recycling facilities in 2008 and Coca-Cola is one of the founding members of WRAP’s UK Plastics Pact. Helen Bird, Strategic Engagement Manager at WRAP, said: “It takes 75 per cent less energy to make a plastic bottle from recycled plastic compared with using virgin material, and it’s always important to remember that using recycled content in the manufacture of new products and packaging is the whole point of recycling.
“Not only does it mean that less new plastic is being used, it also ensures that it is being kept in the packaging recycling system and out of the environment.“
Despite its efforts to increase the recycled content of its bottles, Coca-Cola has recently faced criticism for its contribution to the plastics crisis, with a report released by The Changing Markets Foundation accusing it of being the world’s top plastic poluter with a footprint of 2.9 million tonnes of plastic per year and actively lobbying against tougher regulations on single-use plastic consumption.
Coca-Cola’s bottles have been 100 per cent recyclable for several years but this does not necessarily mean there is an adequate system in place for them to be collected and recycled.
The company also got into hot water at the end of 2019, with NGOs criticising an advert run by Coca-Cola claiming its bottles were not single-use because they had the ability to be recycled, which contradicts the Recycle Now definition of single-use as items that are ‘used only once before they are thrown away or recycled’.