Coca-Cola rolls out recyclable plant bottle in South Africa

By Helen Glaberson

- Last updated on GMT

Coca-Cola rolls out recyclable plant bottle in South Africa

Related tags Polyethylene terephthalate Coca-cola

Coca-Cola is launching its plant-based bottle in South Africa, the 10th global market to be introduced to the 100 per cent recyclable packaging.

At the same time, the company is opening a new plant in the country, located in Heidelberg, southeast of Johannesburg which will fill Coca-Cola’s​Valpré Spring water using the recyclable packaging.

PlantBottle packaging is currently made by converting sugarcane into monoethylene glycol (MEG), which represents 30 per cent of the total composition of the PET plastic by weight.

In its first year, PlantBottle was launched in nine global markets, including Brazil, Canada, Chile,

Denmark, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Sweden and the US, on brands like Bonaqua Water,

Barqs, Coca-Cola, DASANI, Fresca, iLOHAS, Sokenbicha, Sprite, and vitaminwater.

South Africa was an important market to focus on for a PlantBottle launch as the inhabitants are very conscious in terms of recyclability, with a population that is “highly educated​” about sustainability, Angela Harrell, communications director for Coca-Cola South Africa told BeverageDaily.

According to Harrell, the country has one of the recycling rates for cans in the world, with a 38 per cent collection rate for PET.

Future development

The firm claims PlantBottle packaging has a lighter footprint on the environment due to its reduced dependence on nonrenewables such as petroleum.

The other 70 per cent of the bottle is made from purified terephthalic acid (PTA), which is made from traditional sources. However, Coca-Cola said it is currently developing a plant-based replacement for PTA.

The company is also working with R&D partners such as universities and research institutes to advance technologies to extract sugar from plant-based wastes for PlantBottle packaging.

“So, while we are only using sugarcane today, we expect over the long-term to also be able to use natural resources like stems, barks or fruit skins in the near future,”​ said Coca-Cola.

By the end of 2010 (in two years since its introduction in the US), more than 2.5 billion PlantBottle packages had been produced, eliminating the equivalent of approximately 60 000 barrels of oil from plastic bottles, said the firm.

New plant

Selected for its close proximity to markets and distribution sites in the Guateng Region and a similar source water profile as Valpré's, Coca-Cola said the new South African plant will help the country meet the increasing demand for bottled water in the country.

According to Harrell, the facility will also be Africa’s greenest Coca-Cola plant through strategies that allow the company to​lower its water and energy usage.

For example, the plant is North-South facing, a position which optimises the facility’s sunlight exposure, explained Harrell.

Furthermore, the use of solar panels and greater use of natural light in the building means less electricity is used at the facility.

Harrell said Coca-Cola also maximized its use of recycled materials in the building of the facility, using most of the materials from local communities which were “literally across the road​” from the plant.

In addition, the facility also has a "zero to landfill" target.

The company said the facility is in the process of being LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) -- an internationally recognized program that is the accepted benchmark for design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

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