Resources minister Therese Coffey today (20 June) welcomed an announcement from soft drinks producer Coca-Cola Great Britain that it is increasing the volume of recycled PET plastic (rPET) used in bottles across its ranges.
In an industry statement, Coca-Cola said it wants to double the amount of rPET used in all its drinks ranges to at least 50% by 2020, which it says will make the company the largest user of rPET across the UK.
In addition, the company is also is to change colour of its green Sprite lemonade bottle to clear so that it can better use recycled material, due to the wider availability of food-grade clear rPET compared to coloured varieties. And, it is to use 100% rPET in its Glaceau Smartwater bottles, replacing about 3,100 tonnes of virgin plastic from the packaging range.
Coca Cola also highlighted how its investments in plastics recycling plants will help it in the use of rPet. It said: “Coca-Cola has a strong track record of investing in recycled PET and began using recycled PET in its bottle in the 1990’s. Over the last decade Coca-Cola has supported the development of many recycling plants around the world, including the UK’s only bottle reprocessing plant in Lincolnshire, which it helped to build and which has been providing the recycled material used in their bottles since it opened in 2012.
“This support continues with significant recent investments in new enhanced recycling technologies which allow a wider range of waste plastics to be used to make new bottles.”
The investments are seen as significant because there are some concerns in the wider plastics sector that there could be a shortage of rPET for businesses which want to use recycled material, especially in light of plans for a tax on products which use less than 30% recycled material. Through its investments in recycling plants, Coca-Cola has helped secure access to rPET especially from the facility at Hemswell, Lincolnshire. This is now run by Clean Tech, a subsidiary of Plastipak which bought the plant after it was run by Evolve Polymers.
Leendert den Hollander, vice-president and general manager, Great Britain, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) said: “Using more recycled plastic is a critical element of our sustainable packaging strategy, as it reduces the amount of virgin material used in our packs. None of this is easy and I am proud of the teams’ work to ensure we are on track to move to at least 50% recycled PET plastic on all of our bottles in 2020.”
On moving beyond 50% rPET content, Mr den Hollander, said: “Our new Smartwater bottle shows we can go further. But that requires more packaging to be collected so that more can be reused to make new bottles.”
And, the vice-president reiterated the company’s support for a deposit return scheme (DRS). He said: “That’s why we support the planned reforms of the current recycling system in Great Britain and are calling for the introduction of a well-designed deposit return scheme for drinks containers, which we believe will reduce litter and increase the quantity and quality of material reprocessed in this country.”
Availability of rPET will be crucial to the plans to meeting the aim, with competition for recycled polymers becoming more intense as manufacturers seek to meet a 30% recycled content requirement for plastic packaging by 2023.
Commenting on the commitment, Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “Congratulations to Coca-Cola on making this significant step to help our natural environment. These initiatives, including using more recycled plastic in their bottles, set a fine example to other large businesses and we hope that others follow suit.
“We all have a responsibility to our environment. Through our landmark Resources and Waste Strategy the government is committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse and recycle for a more circular economy.”
Marcus Gover, the chief executive of resources charity, WRAP, trumpeted Coca Cola’s announcement as showing progress towards the aims of the UK’s Plastics Pact. WRAP has given financial support to Hemswell which is a major supplier of rPET to Coca-Cola.