Plastic free world
From left, Debra Mallowah, Vice President, Coca-Cola East and Central Africa Franchise, Dr Catherine Mbaisi, Deputy Director - NEMA and Geoffrey Kuria of Kenya Association of Waste Recyclers pose for a photo during the launch of Sprite’s new clear recyclable bottle at Serena Hotel.

Just three years ago, it was impossible to imagine a world without waste.

Today, that possibility is becoming clearer as corporates such as Coca-Cola take the leadership on this transformational journey that is changing the global conversation on plastic pollution.

The key pillars of this movement are – design, collect and forge partnerships.

To this end, the firm plans to make its entire packaging 100 per cent recyclable globally by 2025. The icing on the cake will be using at least half of recycled materials in its packaging by 2030.

It has also committed to collect and recycle a bottle or can for each one it sells by 2030.

But most importantly, the third fundamental goal driving the battle against waste is to bring people together to support a healthy, debris-free environment.

The company and industry is now tackling the key questions that were making this journey hard.

Where would all the waste go? What would happen to the millions of jobs that rely on the packaging industry? How will consumers enjoy their favourite drinks in the new world without alternatives?  One of the answers to these pressing questions is making new bottles from the old ones. 

Also, the company is fundamentally rethinking how it gets its products to consumers, including what kind of packaging to use and whether a package is needed at all.

Read also: Plastic firms under pressure to do more

The Covid-19 pandemic has also prompted the beverage giant to accelerate its focus on refillable packaging in response to consumer affordability concerns and its potential to help it meet sustainability goals.

Despite the challenges, today the company is witnessing the first fruits of these initiatives as the efforts gather momentum.

The beverage maker set a goal to reduce the use of virgin plastic derived from non-renewable sources by a cumulative 3 million metric tonnes over the next five years. Already, this is bearing fruit with the latest move to switch back to clearer bottles for its Sprite brand.

The firm has also expanded the rollout of 100 per cent recycled PET plastic packages in key markets around the world, including the United States, bringing the total to around 30 markets.

“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot act alone. The crisis has shone a light on the interconnected nature of our world. The lessons we learn must be applied to help us emerge stronger…to get to a more sustainable and inclusive economic future,” Mr James Quincey, the chairman and Chief Executive Officer, the Coca-Cola Company said.

The Netherlands and Norway markets have already announced full transitions to PET1 for their entire local plastic packaging portfolios.

Such a task cannot be done alone. This has seen Coca- Cola partner with key actors among them Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), industry peers and local and state governments to advance bottle collection and recycling.

The firm joined the US Plastics Pact, championed by The Recycling Partnership and WWF, and part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact Network, to partner with governments to ensure the plastics it uses stays in the circular economy and out of the environment.

That is not all, in Indonesia, through an industry coalition called PRAISE, Coca-Cola worked with peer companies and government partners to launch the country’s first Packaging Recovery Organization (PRO) to increase collection and recycling of post-consumer packaging waste.

Read also: Inside Coca-Cola’s plan to tackle global plastic pollution

In the period, the firm also signed a business manifesto calling for a UN treaty on plastic pollution to urgently address the fragmented landscape of regulation and complement existing voluntary measures.

It is also exploring opportunities to expand the PET Recycling Company (PETCO) model across Africa. This model, first introduced in South Africa, promotes and regulates PET recycling by supporting recyclers to create new products from recycled PET.

It has also engaged industry partners to work with governments in Bangladesh and Nigeria to establish standards for food and beverage packaging.

Having recognised the fact that it shares in the responsibility to help solve the global plastic waste crisis, Coca Cola in 2018 launched the World Without Waste initiative – an ambitious, sustainable packaging plan to create systemic change by driving a circular economy for its bottles and cans.

The initiative has signaled a renewed focus on its entire packaging lifecycle, from how bottles and cans are designed and produced to how they’re recycled and repurposed.

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