Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) has pledged to double the amount of recycled plastic it sources for inclusion in plastic bottle production, after green campaigners criticised parent firm The Coca-Cola Company for its continued use of high quantities of virgin plastics.
The commitment will see CCA, which is the largest soft drinks bottler in Australia, incorporate more than 10,000 tonnes of pre and post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics in its range of bottles annually by 2020.
This move will enable the company to produce all bottles with a capacity of 600ml or less using 100% recycled plastic, while also doubling the proportion of recycled content in all other bottle ranges. Selected lines in the firm’s 600ml and under range, which includes on-the-go bottles for the likes of Sprite, Fanta, Coca-Cola and Mount Franklin, will be launched in 100% recycled bottles by the end of 2019.
Overall, the move will see recycled material account for more than two-thirds of CCA’s plastic packaging content.
Australia’s federal government recently implemented a National Packaging Target framework, encouraging all large companies to incorporate at least 70% recycled content in their plastic packaging by 2025. According to CCA’s managing director Peter West, the company’s new commitments mean it is likely to surpass this requirement ahead of schedule.
“We’ve heard the community message loud and clear – that unnecessary packaging is unacceptable, and that we need to do our part to reduce it nationwide,” West said.
“This is the single largest increase in recycled plastic use in our history and our strongest step forward in reducing packaging waste and the environmental impact of our operations.”
The move from CCA builds on its existing framework of 2025 sustainability targets, which saw the company eliminate single-use plastic straws and stirrers from its Australian market.
It also comes shortly after rival firm PepsiCo announced plans to launch bottles made using 100% recycled plastic content by 2020, after partnering with plastics innovation firm Loop Industries to source greater quantities of PCR plastic.
A mixed plastics picture
CCA’s new pledge comes as The Coca-Cola Company – its parent firm, which holds a minority stake in the business – is aiming to make all bottles globally with an average of 50% recycled content by 2030, up from its 2017 proportion of 7%.
However, several of the company’s largest market arms and bottlers, including Coca-Cola UK and Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), have set more ambitious targets, with these two bodies targeting 50% by 2020 and 2025 respectively.
According to CCEP’s recent integrated annual report, the company is on track to meet its recycled content aim after signing a deal with Loop Industries to secure a continuous and secure flow of high-grade recycled PET (rPET).
While the green economy has, broadly, reacted well to The Coca-Cola Company’s efforts to reduce its virgin plastics footprint, anger was recently directed at the firm by green campaigners after it disclosed its total plastic footprint for the first time, revealing that it used three million tonnes in its global operations 2018. This figure accounts for both virgin and recycled plastics.
The information was disclosed through the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment spring 2019 report, which also documented the plastic use of 34 other firms including Colgate Palmolive, SC Johnson and Unilever. It revealed that The Coca-Cola Company was the largest user of plastic during 2018 out of the companies surveyed, using almost double that of the next firm on the list, Nestle.
Green campaign groups such as Greenpeace were quick to argue that the company should be ashamed of the figure, with some calculating that its annual plastic use is equivalent to around 108 billion bottles per year, or one-fifth of the world’s total annual single-use plastic bottle output.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy lead Sander Defruyt, however, has argued that disclosure is the first step towards driving positive change.
“We applaud the companies that are publishing this data and encourage all other companies that make and use plastics to follow their lead,” Defruyt said. “This is an important step forward to create transparency.”
Similarly, Coca-Cola’s new European sustainability director Therese Noorlander recently told edie that disclosure on plastic use is essential for any company wishing to regain consumer trust as the war on plastics continues to gather pace and fake news continues to spread.