We must keep pushing on packaging efficiency and recycling

leendert den hollander quote web

Resource efficiency has long been at the heart of our thinking around sustainability, particularly when it comes to packaging. We have made positive progress in recent years. But we know there is much more to be done - by Coca-Cola and the wider industry - to minimise the materials we use, reduce waste, improve packaging recycling rates and tackle litter.

That’s why we have embarked on a review of our sustainable packaging strategy to understand what role we should play in unlocking the full potential of this country’s circular economy.

Some important actions are well underway. For instance: all our bottles and cans are being made as light as possible, are already 100% recyclable, and contain increasing amounts of recycled and renewable material.

We now want to accelerate our progress, particularly with regards to our plastic bottles, and have been talking with expert organisations and policymakers across Great Britain.

The results of this review will be published in the summer. But we already know British consumers expect companies to be doing more and our stakeholders rightly expect us to keep pushing the boundaries when it comes to our use of recycled materials.

We are one of very few drinks companies supporting recyclers of plastic packaging in this country. Today, we are able to include 25% rPET in all our plastic bottles and are planning to increase that proportion to 40% by 2020. This is only possible because of our long-standing agreement to buy this material from Europe’s largest plastic bottle recycling plant, based in Lincolnshire.

Governments clearly have an important role to play in nurturing the potential of the manufacturing capabilities at the heart of the circular economy - whether as part of Westminster’s recently released Industrial Strategy or Scotland’s ongoing work to support circular economy solutions. Businesses across our sector also have an important role to play. And it’s clear from the conversations we are having that there are growing expectations on all of us to work together.

We believe household collections provide a robust packaging recovery solution for Great Britain. But recycling rates have stalled in many parts of the country and we think it’s time to update the existing producer responsibility obligations.

Understandably, there is also a growing interest in exploring the role that could be played by introducing a deposit return scheme on drinks packaging. We have supported the introduction of such schemes in other countries in Europe, and would support a trial here. The key is that it cannot be implemented in isolation - it must work for all parties across the value chain.

We welcome the fact that consumers are increasingly questioning the environmental impact of the packaging used by our industry, and we want to see all our bottles and cans being recovered and recycled. We wouldn’t claim to have all the answers, but we remain committed to the continuous improvement that will be necessary towards the circular economy in Great Britain.

Leendert den Hollander is vice-president and general manager, Great Britain, at Coca-Cola European Partners

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