The sample bottle has been made with recovered and recycled marine plastics: ‘demonstrating that, one day, even ocean debris could be used in recycled packaging for food or drinks’.
While only a small batch of 300 bottles has been produced, Coca-Cola says the bottle is a proof of concept for the potential of ‘enhanced recycling’ – technology which allows even low-quality plastics to be reused and recycled.
A key problem with using recycled plastic is finding a sufficient quantity of plastic at high enough quality to be used in food grade packaging.
Coca-Cola has turned to enhanced recycling technologies to break down components of plastic and strip out impurities in lower-grade recyclables so they can be rebuilt ‘as good as new’.
“This means that lower-grade plastics that were often destined for incineration or landfill can now be given a new life,” explains Coca-Cola. “It also means more materials are available to make recycled content, reducing the amount of virgin PET needed from fossil fuels, and resulting in a lower carbon footprint.”
The sample bottle is the result of a partnership between Ioniqa Technologies, a clean-teach spinoff from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands; Indorama Ventures, Mares Circulares (Circular Seas) and The Coca-Cola Company.
Marine plastic was collected and recovered by volunteers in 84 beach clean-ups in Spain and Portugal, as well as by fisherman across the Mediterranean, through the Mares Circulares initiative.
Ioniqa Technologies used a loan from Coca-Cola to scale its proprietary enhanced recycling technology; while Indorama Ventures, a Coca-Cola supplier of PET and packaging, converted this material into the final material.
In the immediate term, enhanced recycling will be introduced at commercial scale using waste streams from existing recyclers, including plastics that were previously unrecyclable and lower-quality recyclables. From 2020, Coca-Cola plans to roll out this enhanced recycled content in some of its bottles.
Across Western Europe, Coca-Cola has this week announced ambitions to reach 100% recycled plastic in all its bottles.
In Great Britain, it hopes to reach 50% next year. "While one of the challenges of moving past 50% has been the limited availability of food-grade quality recycled plastic, we hope that the new technology opens up new streams of material," says the company.