Coca Cola talks deposit recycling schemes and plastic quality: ‘We need a step-change for packaging collection’

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

"We're committed to reducing the impact of our packaging wherever we can", says CCEP VP of Communications & Public Affairs, Julian Hunt. GettyImages/carlosalvarez
"We're committed to reducing the impact of our packaging wherever we can", says CCEP VP of Communications & Public Affairs, Julian Hunt. GettyImages/carlosalvarez

Related tags Coca-cola Recycling circular economy Plastic

On its path to achieving zero waste and net zero GHG emissions, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners is advocating for deposit recycling schemes across Great Britain. Julian Hunt, VP of Communications & Public Affairs tells FoodNavigator this would help deliver best outcomes for businesses, consumers, and the environment.

Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) aspires to reach net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2040 and has set an interim goal of reducing its absolute GHG emissions across its value chain by 30% ten years earlier. Zero waste is also part of its ambition.

For the beverage giant, which is involved in the marketing, production and distribution of Coca-Cola, Capri-Sun, and Monster Energy products, amongst others, this is no mean feat.

“It starts with our packaging, and when it comes to zero waste, we are committed to reduce the impact of our packaging wherever we can,” ​said Julian Hunt, Vice President, Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability of Coca-Cola Europacific Partners in GB, Norway and Sweden.

100% collection for circular economy

Moving forward, CCEP has outlined four pillars in its 100% rPET packaging strategy.

Not only will the business be removing unnecessary plastic from its packaging, but also reducing virgin plastic to ensure all plastic used is 100% recyclable and 100% recycled.

Innovating in refillable and dispensed solutions are also key, as is CCEP’s ambition to aim for 100% collection. This, Hunt explained at FoodNavigator’s Climate Smart Food event​, will ensure CCEP packaging does not end up as litter, “or worse, in the oceans”.

“We’ve long advocated for the introduction of well-designed deposit return schemes (DRS), because as well as high recovery rates, we know that these schemes will ensure better quality bottles are collected and recycled, giving them more chance [of being turned] back into new bottles.”

CCEP is making progress, but admits more needs doing. In 2020, 59% of its packaging was collected. By 2025, this needs to increase to 100% collection.

And again, in 2020, 51.5% of its plastic packaging was rPET. This also needs to get to 100% within the next four years.

“The benefits of doing that are clear,” ​Hunt explained. “One-hundred percent rPET is estimated to have a carbon footprint that is about 70% lower than using virgin fossil-based plastics.”

Creating a low carbon zero waste circular economy for PET is reliant on industry collaboration in four areas, he continued: a ‘step-change’ in packaging recycling, ensuring that bottles are collected and turned back into bottles, support in recycling capacity, and consumer engagement.

This last point is crucial, the communications expert stressed. Consumers will need to accept that bottles made from high levels of recycled content often have a ‘slightly greyer shade’ than those made from virgin fossil-based plastic.

DRS an ‘immediate priority’

A DRS acts as an incentive to support recycling. Under a DRS, consumers are charged an additional deposit fee when they buy a beverage in a single-use container. That deposit is redeemed when the consumer returns the empty container to a designated point.

In the UK, the first national DRS was passed by the Scottish Parliament in May 2020. The scheme is expected to go live in July 2022, with Hunt suggesting he hoped other countries would follow suit.

“The governments of England and Wales are also consulting on their approach to DRS and extended producer responsibility.”

Where ‘well designed’ deposit recycling schemes are operating, CCEP says it generates ‘high levels’ of recovered materials. Particularly in plastic, a ‘much better quality material’ is recovered than in curb side collection schemes, we were told.

“One of the barriers that we have in Great Britain – and it’s made our progress slower than we would have probably liked – is [that] the quality and quantity of material coming into the reprocessing sector is not sufficient to allow, not just us, but the whole sector, to move quickly towards higher levels of recycled content.”

In other regions, where a well-designed DRS has already been rolled out, greater progress in collection and rPET has already been made.

Norway and Sweden, for example, have a DRS in place. This, Hunt told FoodNavigator, makes for the return of ‘very good amounts’ of ‘high quality materials’. In these two countries, CCEP has already transitioned to 100% rPET and other [regions] are also making similar announcements.

“It’s our ask of governments that we have complementary systems introduced across Great Britain as soon as practical, to reduce complexity, confusion and cost, and deliver the best outcome for businesses, for consumers, and for the environment.”

Missed Julian Hunt's presentation, or any of the other content live streamed during the Climate Smart Food broadcast? Don't worry, it's all available on demand. Click HERE​ to view the programme and click HERE​ to register and view at your leisure. 

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