There is indeed a story in every one of our bottles—and in our cans and other packages, too. It is the story of increasing efficiency. Innovation. A passion to promote recycling and renewable materials. And a global vision over the long-term of zero waste. We are advancing that vision by:
- Designing consumer-preferred, resource-efficient packaging
- Eliminating landfill waste
- Using recycled and/or renewable materials
Our product packages help ensure the quality of our products and safe delivery of refreshment for billions of people around the world every single day. Since 85 percent of our unit case volume is delivered in recyclable bottles and cans, those packages are where our innovation can make the biggest difference—and that is where we are focusing most of our efforts. As we strive to improve our packaging, we balance environmental concerns with our need to protect product quality and manufacturing as well as our need to transport products economically. Our approach is increasingly informed by an understanding of particular packaging needs in different locations around the world and by the impacts of various packages over their entire lifecycle.
We are also looking for packaging ideas that are holistic solutions when viewed in the context of the complete product lifecycle. We are interested in innovations that deliver genuine, measurable long-term advancements toward sustainability and not just eye-grabbing marketing slogans that will earn us public relations points in the short-term. One example: capturing the embodied energy and raw materials in beverage bottles for reuse through recycling, we believe, is a better option for our business and for the environment than biodegradable packaging when considered over the package lifecycle.
Managing Packaging to Manage Risk
Most people do not think about business risk when they look at a beverage container. But we do. Our packages help meet our strict quality requirements and safely deliver our products to consumers. If a package is not energy efficient to produce, it could erode our profitability. Similarly, any time the cost of packaging materials like petroleum and aluminum increases, or any time the supply of those materials is disrupted, it means potential harm for our business. Also, changes in laws and regulations relating to beverage containers and other packaging could increase our costs and reduce demand for our products. Finally, being viewed as a contributor to global pollution—even though a significant percentage of our packages are recovered and recycled—could damage our brand. Developing more thoughtful, more sustainable packaging enables us to reduce our business risk along with our impact on the environment.
Creating More Efficient Packaging
By 2015, improve packaging material efficiency per liter of product sold by 7 percent compared with a 2008 baseline.
Each market around the world is aggressively looking for ways to reduce costs, and our ongoing package lightweighting efforts provide an opportunity to decrease packaging costs while offering environmental benefits.
In the design of our packages, we strive to use the least amount of natural resources required to protect our products and ensure their safe transport to consumers. Over the past two years, our systemwide lightweighting program has resulted in an estimated cost-savings of approximately $180 million. To date we have:
- Trimmed the weight of our 20-ounce PET plastic bottle by more than 25 percent
- Shaved 30 percent from the weight of our 12-ounce aluminum can
- Lightened our 8-ounce glass bottle by more than 50 percent
Lightweighting is often a market-by-market effort, with our bottlers choosing packaging based on local consumer demand and applicable legal requirements. Our bottlers around the world are continuously looking for ways to further optimize our packages. Below are a few of the recent efforts from across the Coca-Cola system:
Based on the success of our I LOHAS bottles in Japan2, we extended the I LOHAS lightweight twistable bottle idea design to several other markets around the globe supported by consistent 1-2-3 (Chose-Drink-Twist) communication. The design, which employs our PlantBottle™ material and is the lightest of its kind in Japan, invites consumers to twist and crush the bottle when it’s empty, helping to save space in recycling bins and saving money and energy required for transport.
Coca-Cola Colombia launched Brisa bottled water in a twistable Eco-Flex package in early 2012. The 600-ml bottle uses 23 percent less PET plastic. Following the lead of I LOHAS in Japan, Coca-Cola Colombia promoted its new package with an advertising campaign encouraging consumers to “drink, twist, re-cap and recycle."
In a similar campaign, Coca-Cola Costa Rica launched its Alpina bottled water in an Eco-Flex bottle that uses 23 percent less PET plastic.
Coca-Cola Thailand relaunched its Namthip bottled water brand with a new brand identity and an Eco-Crush bottle that uses 35 percent less PET plastic.
A delay in launching our packaging management system
Two years ago, we announced our planned implementation of a new package management system that will allow us to better track packaging over its lifespan, enabling us to improve efficiency and better share successful packaging designs among multiple markets and multiple bottlers.
We expected to be using our new system by early 2011, but to date, the system has not launched. Our main obstacle is data collection. Gathering information from our bottling partners around the world is taking more time than we expected.
Investing in Recycling Programs
By 2015, recover 50 percent of the equivalent bottles and cans used annually.
We currently estimate that 37 percent of the equivalent bottles and cans we send to market are recovered.1
If we are serious about maximizing the value of the packaging material we put into the market, recovering our beverage containers for reuse is essential.
Our beverage containers are recovered through multiple channels: the Coca-Cola system directly, industry-financed collection organizations, community-funded recycling programs, government mandated programs and informal collectors worldwide.
To date, we have only been able to report recovery for a limited number of markets—of those markets, about 37 percent of the equivalent bottles and cans sent to market are recovered. Calculating a comprehensive global recycling rate for any package is a complex undertaking given that many countries, especially in developing and emerging markets, do not collect this data, and there is no practical mechanism for tracking the collection of packaging by the millions of informal collectors that operate in every market in which we distribute our products.
We have become more acutely aware of this challenge as we work to advance recovery in markets worldwide. We are working to identify independently verified recovery and recycling data and, as it becomes available, add this information to our global reporting. Where reliable data is not available, we will be working with stakeholders to identify actual recycling rates.
In addition to improving tracking of recycling, through our Coca-Cola Foundation and other means, we are helping to expand and improve community recycling programs while supporting the inclusion of informal collectors as improved waste management practices are adopted in developing markets. Recovery and recycling are strongly impacted by local issues, with different circumstances in every area. We recognize that collaboration is critical to advancing our vision faster, so we work closely with governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), local communities and our industry partners to create stewardship systems that make sense for the markets they serve, and, whenever possible, create jobs. In developing markets, we work with government and industry to help informal collection systems become formal recovery systems that provide sustainable jobs. In developed markets, we support approaches that include comprehensive recovery of materials through industry recovery organizations and other means.
In 2011, we hosted a meeting of the Global Alliance for Recycling and Sustainable Development in Brazil, which brought together industry groups from Brazil, South Africa, Thailand and other nations to collaborate on advancing collection systems in developing markets.
In 2011, we also continued our work with the Regional Initiative for Inclusive Recycling for Latin America, an effort to transform the recycling market in Latin America by improving the socioeconomic status of recyclers and their families; enhancing private sector roles so that recycling cooperatives thrive in a competitive market; and supporting public policy so that recycling cooperatives become part of local waste management systems. The partnership includes the Inter-American Development Bank and Fundación AVINA.
Educating consumers about recycling is also an important part of increasing recycling rates. In 2011, our bottler in Israel launched a campaign to promote recycling that included online advertising, radio coverage, outreach on Facebook and, at its center, “pop-up stores” in central Tel Aviv and elsewhere that sold handbags, T-shirts, hats and other items made from recycled materials, some designed by local artists and fashion designers. The campaign also encouraged consumers to recycle their PET plastic bottles at some 10,000 distinctive recycling receptacles across the country.
In North America, working with NASCAR at race tracks across the United States, we helped divert more than 11.5 million beverage containers from landfills and into recycling streams during the 2010 and 2011 race seasons.
Read more about our support of community recycling programs around the world in the Charitable Contributions section of this report.
Combating marine litter with ocean conservancy
When used packaging is not disposed of properly, it too often ends up as trash littering our communities and waterways. Marine litter, though its causes and effects are not fully understood, is a matter of great concern to scientists, to conservationists—and to us. Our packaging is among the debris that can be found improperly disposed of on shorelines around the world, so we have an obligation to help address marine litter in earnest.
We work with a number of organizations, including Ocean Conservancy and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), to better understand the causes of marine debris. The scientists at these organizations and others believe marine litter is not a problem that is easily characterized or likely to be solved in the near future. However, we are working with them to gather science-based information and to engage other companies in a collective effort to find sustainable ways to mitigate marine litter.
In 2011, working with Ocean Conservancy, we helped launch the Trash Free Seas Alliance, a cooperative group of businesses, NGOs, scientific institutions and community groups that share the common goal of eliminating ocean trash. By bringing such diverse groups together, we hope to accelerate action among the varied stakeholders who must work together to restore the world’s seas.
One of the first accomplishments of the Trash Free Seas Alliance was development of a proposal accepted by NCEAS to support a working group on marine debris. NCEAS is one of the foremost ecological think tanks in the world. This working group will bring together a group of leading ecologists, oceanographers, social scientists, industry market experts, behavioral economists and polymer scientists to evaluate existing data and published information as well as conduct integrative modeling to significantly advance the scientific understanding of marine debris globally.
We have also partnered with Ocean Conservancy for the past 16 years as a sponsor of the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). The ICC is the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean health. Coca-Cola system associates join the more than 9 million volunteers to clean up the world’s waterways during this annual event.
Increasing Our Use of Recycled and Renewable Materials
Source 25 percent of our PET plastic from recycled or renewable material by 2015.
Five percent of our packaging materials currently comes from recycled or renewable materials.
Of our beverage volume, 61 percent is delivered in plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate, better known as PET plastic. Consumers like PET bottles because they are lightweight, resealable, shatter-resistant and accepted in most community recycling systems. We like PET bottles because the processes for making and transporting them are relatively energy-efficient and cost-effective, and PET protects our product quality exceptionally well.
But with increasing pressure on natural resources required to make conventional PET bottles—particularly on petroleum and natural gas—we need alternatives. That is why we are aiming to source 25 percent of our PET plastic from recycled or renewable materials by 2015.
Building Momentum with PlantBottle™ Packaging
To increase the amount of renewable material in our packaging, we created PlantBottle™ packaging, the first-ever fully recyclable PET bottle made partially from plants. PlantBottle™ packaging is an environmental breakthrough that consumers can hold in their hands, and response to date has been quite positive.
Since introducing PlantBottle™ packaging in 2009, we have distributed more than 10 billion PlantBottle™ packages to markets in 24 countries. With a few exceptions, we are now producing PlantBottle™ packages locally in most major markets. We intend to use PlantBottle™ packaging for all of our PET plastic bottles by 2020.
Our use of PlantBottle™ packaging is already paying environmental dividends, eliminating the need for the equivalent of more than 200,000 barrels of oil and helping to save the equivalent emissions of approximately 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)—the amount of CO2 emitted from burning more than 10 million gallons of gasoline. PlantBottle™ packaging is made from sugarcane-based ethanol from Brazil—designated as an “Advanced Renewable Fuel” by the United States Environmental Protection Agency—so its manufacture has a low environmental impact and does not consume agricultural resources that could otherwise be used for food production.
PlantBottle™ packaging is proving to be a business success as well as an environmental one. The package is credited with reinvigorating our Dasani bottled water brand in North America, which experienced an 11 percent increase in sales in 2011—a growth rate more than 2.4 times that of the rest of the category. And surveys show that brand loyalty among Dasani consumers has increased with the introduction of PlantBottle™ packaging.
We have distributed more than 10 billion PlantBottle™ packages in 24 countries for multiple brands including Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite, Dasani and more.
In all, PlantBottle™ packaging is delivering against three key business values: It is a brand differentiator. It is a major advance in our goal to use more sustainable packaging. And by reducing our dependence on petroleum and natural gas, it enables us to control costs and keep our products affordable.
An idea like PlantBottle™ technology has too much good potential to keep to ourselves. So in February 2011, we shared our technology and entered into a partnership with H.J. Heinz Company (Heinz), enabling Heinz to put its ketchup in PlantBottle™ packaging. Moving forward, we will continue to explore the potential of such partnerships with other companies.
Others are noticing the value of PlantBottle™ packaging as well. In April 2011, PlantBottle™ packaging received an Edison Award recognizing the most innovative products from a variety of categories. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., recognized PlantBottle™ packaging in June 2011 with their Sustainable Packaging Award. In 2012, McDonald’s Corporation selected PlantBottle™ packaging for its 2012 Global Best of Sustainable Supply Report.
Toward 100 percent plant-based packaging
Currently, 30 percent of the material used in PlantBottle™ packaging comes from plants. We are limited to 30 percent due to the chemistry of PET plastic. Currently, we can only use plant-based material to make one of the two components of PET plastic. Our ultimate goal is to develop PET plastic that is 100 percent plant based. In 2011, we partnered with three biotechnology companies that have been able to create a 100 percent plant-based solution in their labs. Our investment will support those companies’ efforts to produce packaging on a commercial scale. To further drive the production of PET made entirely from plants, we entered into the Plant PET Technology Collaborative, a strategic working group, in June 2012. Our fellow members of the collaborative are The Ford Motor Company, the H.J. Heinz Company, Nike, Inc., and The Procter & Gamble Company. By leveraging the combined research and development efforts of our companies in ways that are consistent with applicable antitrust/competition law rules, the Plant PET Technology Collaborative is expected to speed development of a completely plant-based PET material and effect positive change across multiple industries.
Read more about PlantBottle™—how it is made, what it is made of and much more.
Our successes and challenges with rPET
In the early 1990s, we became the first company to use food-grade recycled PET plastic—known as rPET—in packaging. And our enabling of rPET-related research began decades before that. We recognized early that creating end markets for recycled PET plastic would be critical to our bottle recovery efforts and to the success of PET plastic as packaging material.
Over the last decade, demand for rPET across multiple industries has increased. And while that is a positive development for the rPET market and all the more reason for us to continue using PET plastic, increased demand has made it more challenging for us to include rPET in our packaging material.
As a result of the competition for rPET stock, the cost of food-grade rPET, which we require for our packaging, continues to be at a premium for most markets. Also, current rPET processing technology makes it difficult to remove contaminants that must be eliminated from food-grade rPET, further increasing cost and limiting supply.
To date, our system has invested in seven bottle-to-bottle facilities that improve our capacity for using rPET. And we continue to invest in the exploration of technologies and recovery systems that could enable more efficient and cost-effective production of food-grade rPET, which could enable us to increase the amount of rPET we use. Also, because the use of rPET is approved in just a limited number of countries, we are working with governments of the nations where we do business to remove legal barriers to the use of recycled materials in beverage packaging.
Meanwhile, as we work to increase our capacity for using more rPET, we are broadening our strategy for using recycled and renewable content to give our Company and our bottlers more flexibility. Our ultimate goal, after all, is to reduce our dependency on virgin petroleum-based plastics so that we can reduce our costs and our related carbon footprint. We believe there are several ways to meet that goal, including package lightweighting and the use of both renewable and recyclable materials in our packaging.
Helping to create a market for rPET
To help ensure a demand for rPET, we support the creation of merchandise made from the material. We are involved in partnerships that make a variety of consumer goods from rPET, including caps, T-shirts, bags, notebooks and the Emeco 111 Navy® Chair, whose production has helped divert more than 7 million plastic bottles from landfills. The 111 Navy Chair is available in more than 40 countries and is the chair of choice in more than 200 McDonald’s restaurants, more than 17 universities, and in the dining rooms of many companies (view locations where the 111 Navy Chairs can be found). It recently won Best in Show at the second International Plastics Design Competition.
Through these merchandise programs, we are reinforcing our Give It Back® campaign, which promotes PET plastic recycling and merchandise made from rPET.
The Challenge of Getting our Message Out
One important lesson we have learned on our journey toward zero waste is that more sustainable packaging is a complex issue and a hard one to communicate. Terms like “renewable” and “recyclable” can blur together in the public’s mind, and innovations mean little if they are not readily available in the market or if consumers do not perceive them as convenient and beneficial. We have seen that we have to work harder at communicating clearly with consumers and other stakeholders when we believe we have made an important advancement in packaging.
For example, we have found it is important to remind consumers that our PlantBottle™ packaging is still fully recyclable and not biodegradable, despite being made partly from plants. Similarly, we have been challenged in communicating the benefits of our Ultra Glass contour bottle for
As we continue to advance our efforts in each of our focus areas, we intend to better communicate the work we are doing and why it matters to our business, as well as to governments, consumers and NGOs, as we all work toward eliminating waste and recognizing the value of packaging.
Looking Ahead: Industrywide Metrics
A recent, positive trend we see in the movement toward zero waste is the development of common metrics for more sustainable packaging being facilitated by The Consumer Goods Forum. As a member of the Forum, we are helping to advance this work. We believe a common language along with a framework and measurement system on “packaging sustainability“ will help businesses, governments, consumers and NGOs as we all work toward eliminating waste.
1"Recover 50 percent of the equivalent bottles and cans” means we intend to help ensure that an amount of bottles and cans equal to 50 percent of the ones we introduce into the marketplace are recovered. This includes packages introduced by us as well as others. 2Based on a survey conducted by Coca-Cola (Japan) Co., Ltd. regarding 500ml PET bottles manufactured in Japan (as of March 2009).