Now is the time for the virtuous circle of recycling

arnaud-rollandArnaud Rolland

Sustainable Development Manager
Coca-Cola Entreprise

We are entering a new era where the price of raw materials is increasing as they are becoming less available. Manufacturers are getting more involved in optimizing the materials used in their packages, in reducing their purchasing volume and recycling rather than buying new raw materials. The objective is both environmental and financial. It is a real long-term trend.

Recycled materials clearly are tomorrow’s materials. Their potential is endless. Progress must be made in the supply chain and in public awareness.
This is what is called the circular economy, also known as «cradle to cradle». In the light of the shortage in resources, it is more necessary than ever to re-use those we have and invest in the search for new materials, that will allow us to do without non-renewable resources – like second generation bio-based plastic, a promising solution in the field of packaging.

Reducing the carbon footprint of packaging

At Coca-Cola, our objective is to reduce by one-third the carbon footprint of our beverages at the European level by 2020. We are working on the whole life cycle of our goods at six stages: ingredients, packaging, production in our plants, transportation of our products, refrigeration, and end of life.
The packaging production stage represents 47% of our overall carbon footprint alone !

In order to reach our overall objective, the first step consists in working on reducing raw materials. Packaging production is strongly linked to the extraction and processing of raw materials. We therefore target to use 25% less non-recyclable materials in our packaging to produce the same quantity by 2020.

Partnering with our suppliers and distributors

Recently we decided to remove a carton undercoat when supplying our goods and found a new system which does not impair the product’s integrity. We conducted tests over several months and, in certain cases, adapted our production lines. We are also working on the reduction of plastic films around our packs and on the thickness of our labels.With our main can supplier, Ball Packaging, we are testing the can of the future, the lightest on the market. Our industrial teams are working hand in hand to find, within two to three years, the thinnest possible aluminum sheet.The aim is to involve the whole supply chain to continuously invent new machines and new technologies in order to respond to the strategic challenges, make sure that we are gaining in productivity, efficiency and safety. All this without impairing the package’s quality.

Maximizing renewable resources to produce tomorrow’s bottle

Second line of action: reducing the carbon footprint, in particular of plastic bottles, and using renewable resources to produce packages. The PlantBottle™ is the first alternative solution to fossil-based PET. This technology has existed since 2009 in the United States and since 2011 in Western Europe. In 2010, the worldwide production of 2.5 billion Plantbottle™ packages made it possible to save the equivalent of 60,000 barrels of oil used in the manufacturing of PET plastic bottles.

We launched it in France at the end of 2011 on our 50 cl bottles, which contain up to 22.5% of plant-origin plastic. In the manufacturing process, in order to obtain the PET plastic molecule, we use bioethanol derived from sugar cane.But our ultimate goal is to find, within 5 to 10 years, a technological and industrial solution that makes it possible to produce plastic bottles with 100% of plant residue. In the United States, together with other large companies, such as Ford, Procter & Gamble and Heinz, Coca-Cola Company has developed tomorrow’s bottle. Three partnerships have also been signed with leading start-up companies specialised in the development of second-generation plastic. The ultimate objective is to disconnect production of plastic from fossil resources.

Using more recycled materials

The third field of research lies in the use of recycled materials. Coca-Cola Entreprise is the first food company to invest directly in the recycling industry as well as participate in research and development: we have invested 6.5 million Euros in a joint-venture with APPE, the recycled PET leader in France, in order to increase the share of recycled plastic bottles in France.

Coca-Cola Entreprise has conducted the same type of project in the UK with the creation of Continuum Recycling, a joint venture with Eco Plastics, the English leader of recycled PET plastic for food products. This investment will increase by 70% the capacity of the Sainte-Marie-la-Blanche plant. The project is also aimed at improving plastic recycling technologies in France.

Most of the PET is recycled for textile, construction and automotive (e.g. dashboards) applications. In the food industry it is authorized only since 2007 in France. This is an advanced technology for food products and still a young industry. Investing in this sector makes it possible to develop it, consolidate it, and innovate with new machinery.

Although the use of recycled PET has no influence on the production chains of our bottling plants, it alters the pre-forms’ manufacturing process.

The pre-form of our 50 cl bottles is comprised of recycled plastic (up to 25%), plant plastic (22.5%) and virgin plastic; i.e. three difference sources of plastic molecules which come from three different manufacturing processes to make a single pre-form which will give only one bottle!

Last important goal: make the public aware that waste sorting is important. This is what we do in music festivals for example for young people. This is what we will do with our project of an educational centre within our joint-venture in Beaune. We must all be part of this collective challenge. This is why Coca-Cola is committed at the world level to reducing the environmental impact of its packaging. This strategy takes local forms in each country with objectives and investments adapted to national markets.

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