Olympic pledge sees Coca-Cola recycle over 10 million bottles

Coca-Cola has delivered on a key target to recycle 10.5 million plastic bottles from the London 2012 Olympic games, returning most of them back to shelf within 6 weeks.

The large-scale closed loop initiative was part of the company’s commitment to help the London Organising Committee of the Olympic & Paralympic Games (LOCOG) deliver the most sustainable games possible.

The PET bottles, which were collected during the Olympic and Paralympic games, were taken to Continuum Recycling’s reprocessing facility in Lincolnshire before being delivered to Coca-Cola Enterprises’ pre-form factory in Wakefield to be turned back into new bottles.

Coca-Cola’s head of sustainable games Katherine Symonds, who oversaw the project, told edie that bottle-to-bottle recycling was the brand’s primary consumer-facing message at the games.

“We found that the impact of the six-week message meant that 70% of the people who understood it were more likely to recycle when they got home … it reassured them that recycling really does happen [in the UK].”

Not all of the 10.5 million bottles have yet returned back to shelf as the final batch were only collected three weeks ago, but Symonds said the initiative had been a resounding success and that even more bottles could have been recycled if every visitor had disposed of their bottle in the green bins provided.

“It was impossible to know how many bottles we were going to get back,” she said. “We knew roughly what our sales would be, but in reality we got fewer back than we sold … we suspect that some of the bottles got taken away by consumers at the end of the games – and hopefully recycled back at their homes.”

In the two years leading up to the Olympics, Coca-Cola worked extensively with LOCOG to work out how best to maximise bottle recycling rates during the games. This involved designing a waste system that looked at the shape, style and position of recycling bins at London 2012 venues.

According to Symonds, being so heavily involved on the recycling front had a real impact in terms of brand perception.

“It led to greater acknowledgement of Coca-Cola being an environmentally-friendly organisation. The appropriateness of our fit as a sponsor of the Olympics really went up as well – people recognised we could play a meaningful role at the games.”

The company also delivered on a number of other sustainability achievements as part of its sponsorship of London 2012. These included adopting a carbon footprinting methodology which enabled it to cut the carbon footprint of its distribution system at the Games by a third.

Maxine Perella

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