Coca-Cola switches to 100% recycled plastics across Netherlands and Norway

Coca-Cola is set to roll out bottles made from 100% recycled plastic (rPET) in the Netherlands and Norway, as part of the company's latest efforts in Western Europe to eliminate the use of virgin oil-based plastics in its products.

Coca-Cola switches to 100% recycled plastics across Netherlands and Norway

The switch to 100% rPET in the Netherlands will take place next month and will see Coca-Cola reduce the use of virgin oil-based plastics by more than 10,000 tonnes, which in turn will deliver a 21% reduction in carbon emissions associated with the company’s bottles annually.

Additionally, Coca-Cola will transition to 100% rPET in Norway in early 2021. The move will reduce virgin plastic use by 4,300 tonnes annually, creating a 28% reduction in carbon emissions based on bottles produced in the country.

Coca-Cola believes the markets are well suited to support the use of rPET due to well-designed deposit return systems for plastic containers, which have boosted recycling levels for those items to well above 90% in some countries.

Coca-Cola European Partners’ vice president for sustainability Joe Franses said, “Today’s announcement that Coca-Cola European Partners Netherlands and Coca-Cola European Partners Norway are making the switch to 100% rPET marks a vitally important step forwards on our journey to eliminating new virgin oil-based plastic across all our plastic bottles within a decade.

“Crucially, this announcement provides a compelling case for the role that Deposit Return Schemes can play in the creation of local circular economies for beverage packaging. Markets with well-designed DRS such as those in Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway not only have high collection rates but also have the capacity to collect a higher grade of material with less contamination.” 

The two new market rollouts follow on from a similar decision launched in Sweden in December last year. To start with, smaller bottles used for brands such as Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite will be made using rPET, with larger bottles to follow.

The move supports Coca-Cola’s ambition in Western Europe to use 100% rPET and eliminate the use of virgin-based plastics within the next decade. According to the company, this ambition will remove more than 200,000 tonnes of virgin, oil-based plastics from its packaging.

Additionally, Coca-Cola’s rPET bottles produced in each market will be fully recyclable, so they can be used again as raw material for new bottles.

The Coca-Cola Company is aiming to make all bottles globally with an average of 50% recycled content by 2030, up from its 2017 proportion of 7%.

Collect and recycle

Coca-Cola has set a target to collect 100% of its packaging by collecting a bottle or can, regardless of brand, for every one produced by 2025.

Coca-Cola has set up collaborative partnerships with local governments and industry partners to kickstart the collection process. Working with the likes of Fost Plus in Belgium, CITEO in France, Remondis and Interseroh in Germany, WRAP and Valpak in the UK, Infinitum in Norway, Ecoembes in Spain and Returpack in Sweden has already boosted closed-loop practices for its products.

Information disclosed through the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment spring 2019 report found that Coca-Cola used three million tonnes of plastic in its global operations in 2018. This figure accounts for both virgin and recycled plastics.

The company was named as the world’s largest corporate plastic polluter last year, in a report from Greenpeace. Over the course of 239 clean-ups in 42 countries across six continents, volunteers collected more than 180,000 pieces of plastic. According to the report, packaging produced by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé collectively accounted for 14% of the branded items retrieved during the clean-ups.

Last year, Europe’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler announced it will end the use of shrink-wrapped plastics across all can multipacks it sells in Great Britain.

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) will replace plastic shrink wrap across its four, six and eight-packs of cans for all its brands sold in the UK, including Fanta, Sprite, Dr Pepper and Lilt. Over the by the middle of next year, the plastic packaging will be replaced with cardboard, which is already used for multipacks of 10 or more cans.

According to CCEP, more than 30 million packs sold to consumers each year will no longer be wrapped in plastic. Instead, the multipacks will be packaged in 100% recyclable cardboard from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) certified sources.

Matt Mace

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