Coca-Cola bottler vows to ‘reform’ Britain’s recycling system with new packaging strategy

Bottling company Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has today (12 July) unveiled a new packaging strategy for its Great Britain operations, which establishes collaborative partnerships to reform the nation's recycling systems and boost recycled content in its products to 50%.

CCEP’s main forms of packaging are cans and plastic bottles. Across the UK, only 70% and 57% of cans and bottles are recycled respectively, despite both forms of CCEP packaging being 100% recyclable. The bottlers are hoping to increase these figures through a new strategy that focuses on packaging innovation, consumer behaviour change, and “championing the reform” of the UK recycling system.

“Our goal is to work with local and national partners to ensure all of our packaging is recovered and recycled,” CCEP’s vice president Leendert den Hollander said. “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. 

“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.”

CCEP plans to double the amount of recycled plastic in each of its polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles to 50% in the next three years. The company will partner with Clean Tech, which operates Europe’s largest plastic bottle reprocessing facility in Lincolnshire, to reach the goal.

Coca-Cola’s UK operations are split as CCEP and Coca-Cola GB, and both business will target consumers to encourage them to recycle. Later this month, the company will launch a multi-million-pound communications campaign on recycling. The campaign is expected to reach 35m British residents by the end of 2017.

Reforming the system

Finally, CCEP has pledged to work with the UK Government to improve the current recycling system. Research from food retailer The Co-operative Group (Co-op) found that two-thirds of Britain’s recyclable plastic packaging is not being recycled.

CCEP is attempting to support the growth of the circular economy in Great Britain by introducing “well-designed” interventions that can increase packaging collection and recycling rates. CCEP confirmed that this would include a return scheme for packaging, which it publicly supported in February 2017.

The new commitments will build on CCEP’s support on Defra’s new working group to collate knowledge on consumer interactions with recycling. This will include an on-the-go bottle collection and reward programme.

Commenting on the announcement, WRAP’s chief executive Marcus Gover said: “To have a brand as well-known and with the reach of Coca-Cola actively encouraging more people to recycle is a really positive step which we welcome.

“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. We need more big brands to help inspire people to do their part.”

Earlier this month, CCEP released its annual sustainability report, which revealed that the company reduced its packaging use ratio (g/litre) by 18%. This has contributed to the increased number of sites that are sending zero waste to landfill. In total, 34 of the company’s 53 plants are sending zero waste to landfill, equating to 64%.

Matt Mace

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