Smart Coca-Cola dispensers to help university students slash soft drinks packaging

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has teamed up with the University of Reading to hand out micro-chipped refillable drinks bottles to students to support a more sustainable packaging system on campus.

The partnership could help to significantly reduce the 650,000 plastic bottled drinks used at University of Reading’s campus each year

The partnership could help to significantly reduce the 650,000 plastic bottled drinks used at University of Reading’s campus each year

Students that purchase a refillable bottle, manufactured by Whirley-Drinks Works, during the 10 week trial will have access to more than 100 drinks from well-known brands such as Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Fanta, including a wider range of low and no calorie drinks options.

Coca-Cola fountain dispensers with smart technology will interact with the bottles, which contain radio frequency identification (RFID). This will help to verify the payment and enable CCEP to track the popularity of each soft drink and how often the refillable bottles are used.

“We’re hugely excited to have joined forces with the University of Reading on this project,” CCEP GB’s head of sustainability Nick Brown said.

“As well as supporting a more sustainable packaging system on campus, the trial will allow us to explore consumer behaviours and attitudes towards refillable bottles, with the goal to help students and staff across the university to reduce their personal packaging footprint."

The partnership could help to significantly reduce the 650,000 plastic bottled drinks used at University of Reading’s campus each year. Already 1,500 refillable bottles have been provided to students in the first two weeks of the trial.

The University and CCEP will monitor the scheme’s impact on recycling and will engage students and staff about their experiences of using refillable bottles. As refill cartridge can be delivered by courier rather than lorries, it is hoped that the new drinks dispensers will reduce traffic and associated carbon emissions around campus.

The University of Reading, a former edie Sustainability Leaders Awards winner, was a top performer in the latest University Carbon Progress report from Brite Green. The institution has slashed its emissions in half over the past decade, according to the report launched last month.

Sustainable packaging

Sustainable packaging has been a key focus for CCEP in its bid to minimise the environmental impact of its products and operations. In July, the firm turned to stop-motion animation to launch a multi-million pound consumer awareness campaign to highlight the recyclability of its products, marking the first time the global drinks giant has issued a sustainability campaign in the UK.

The ad campaign forms part of Coca-Cola’s new sustainable packaging strategy for Great Britain, which was launched this summer. The campaign focuses on improving recycling rates and doubling the amount of recycled plastic in each Coca-Cola polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle to 50% in the next three years.

Weeks before the strategy was unveiled, the firm released its annual sustainability report, which revealed that the company had reduced its packaging use ratio (g/litre) by 18%.

George Ogleby


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