8 million metric tons of waste are dumped every year in the ocean and it is causing the extinction of marine life. This requires immediate reaction, as the damage is escalating for the entire eco-system. But ocean plastic is in very poor quality, and therefore most of it is very difficult to recycle. Coca-cola has got good news, though. Thanks to a groundbreaking new process this obstacle may become a thing of the past.
Coca-Cola, in partnership with Ioniqa Technologies, Indorama Ventures and Mares Circulares (Circular Seas), has already made 300 prototype bottles from ocean plastic, which was previously considered unusable, very low-quality marine waste plastic. With this new innovative technology Coca-Cola presented, it became possible to turn this low-quality plastic waste into a new product, and the company says this could be the future of the packaging.
The unveiled bottles’ samples consist of 25% recycled marine plastics. The process is currently just a test of concept, one that Coca-Cola claims “is the first successful attempt to incorporate ocean plastics in food and drink packaging.”
The used process is called depolymerization, which enables lower grade plastics to be broken down and improved, cleaned up from its contaminants, and then rebuild as new. Before this process was figured out, lower-grade, non-transparent and colored plastics could not be “upcycled” into bottles.
As Coca-Cola is one of the biggest companies in the world, which produces a lot of plastic waste, they have been increasing their efforts in recycling and collecting its products in Western Europe and this is one way they are doing it. Coca-Cola plans to incorporate previously unrecyclable and lower-quality plastics into its bottles from 2020 onward.
Coca-Cola Western Europe’s president Tim Brett said:
Too many of the world’s finite resources are currently discarded as waste. We know we need to do more to correct this. The targets we have set out today are ambitious and rightly so. There is a valuable role for packaging, but it must always be collected, recycled and reused.
Our aim, working in partnership, is to see the term “single-use plastic” become redundant, both in our business and beyond, as all of our plastic – and indeed all of our packaging – is delivered within a closed loop.
Cleaning their mess
The report from Greenpeace published in 2018 showed that Coca-Cola is the largest plastic polluter in the world. The detailed report through a survey of 239 clean-ups in 42 countries on six continents, where volunteers collected more than 180,000 plastic waste. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé together accounted for 14% of the branded items retrieved during the clean-ups.
In efforts to correct the situation caused, Coca-Cola invested €180m around Western Europe this year for sustainable packaging. It has also revealed a set of new targets together with the launching of their ocean plastic bottles. The aim of these new targets is to support the overall vision of Coca-Cola of a “world without waste” and are part of Coca-Cola European Partners and Coca-Cola in Western Europe’s joint Sustainability Action Plan. In it, the organizations’ commitment to collect a can or bottle for everyone that it sells, makes sure that all of its packagings are 100% recyclable, and that at least 50% of the content of its plastic bottles will come from recycled materials.
For all of this change to happen, the company is now removing all unnecessary materials or the ones that are hard to recycle from its portfolio. This will enable the elimination of 11,000 tons of plastic per year.
The cherry on top of this action was when Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) announced it will end the use of shrink-wrapped plastics across all can multi-packs it sells in Great Britain.
The next short-term goal of Coca-Cola is to work towards 100% recycled or renewable materials in all of its plastic bottles, which will avoid the use of more 200,000 tons of untouched plastic every year. If somehow a renewable or recycled alternative won’t exist, the company is going to publicly support deposit return schemes anywhere across Western Europe.