McDonalds recently announced it will stop using plastic foam cups and also plans to eliminate foam packaging from its global system by the end of 2018, but the eco news that really caught my attention came from Coca-Cola Company. The beverage giant recently announced a goal to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030. The company and its global network of bottling partners will tackle the ambitious goal, which is part of a holistic plan it calls “World Without Waste,” through a renewed focus on the entire packaging lifecycle—from how bottles and cans are designed and made, to how they’re recycled and repurposed.
“Consumers around the world care about our planet,” says James Quincey, president and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company. “They want and expect companies like ours to be leaders and help make a litter-free world possible. Through our ‘World Without Waste’ vision, we’re investing in our planet and in our packaging to help make the world’s packaging problem a thing of the past. This vision is the next step in our broader strategy to grow with conscience by doing business the right way, not just the easy way.”
There are two parts to Coca-Cola’s recycling strategy. The first is to use its global marketing power to help educate the public on “what, how and where” to recycle. The company says it will also continue to team with local communities, NGOs, industry peers and consumers to help make recycling easier and more accessible for everyone by improving local recycling systems and driving policy change that supports a truly circular economy.
This move is a continuation of on-going efforts. For example, in 2002, Coca-Cola bottlers in Mexico joined the country’s plastics industry, and leaders from other industries, to create Ecology and Corporate Commitment, a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging a culture of recycling, and also funded the creation of two food-grade PET plastic recycling facilities. These investments are paying off: In 2016, Mexico recycled 57 percent of the PET plastic it produced (up from nine percent in 2002), making it the leading country globally for PET recycling, according to Coca-Cola.
The second part of the company’s recycling initiative is for Coca-Cola to continue its work toward making all of its packaging 100 percent recyclable globally, Quincey explains. For example, the company is building better bottles, whether through more recycled content, by developing plant-based resins, or by reducing the amount of plastic in each container, he says. By 2030, the Coca-Cola system also aims to make bottles with an average of 50 percent recycled content, Quincey says.
For instance, in 2009 Coca-Cola introduced fully recyclable PlantBottle packaging made from up to 30 percent plant-based materials. Traditional PET plastic is made using fossil fuels such as petroleum. PlantBottle, on the other hand, is made with a combination of traditional materials and material made from plants. The end product is still PET plastic, so the PlantBottle package delivers the same performance—e.g., shelf life, recyclability, weight, chemical composition and appearance—but it reduces potential carbon dioxide emissions from PET plastic bottles and dependence on fossil fuels when compared to traditional PET plastic, according to Coca-Cola.
“We believe every package, regardless of where it comes from, has value and life beyond its initial use,” Quincey says. “If something can be recycled, it should be recycled, so we want to help people everywhere understand how to do their part.”
What are your thoughts on Coca-Cola’s recycling strategy? What impact do you think it will have? Secondly, does your company have an active recycling strategy?