Food and beverage packaging is an important part of our modern lives, yet, the world has a packaging problem that we have a responsibility to help solve. By investing in packaging innovations, collecting a bottle or can for every one we sell, and working together with partners to address waste challenges, we aim to be part of the solution.

Global businesses like The Coca-Cola Company have the opportunity and responsibility to lead in building more sustainable packaging portfolios. In 2017, we worked internally to create an industry-first, ambitious goal to help collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle and can we sell globally by 2030. This goal is the centerpiece of our new packaging vision for a World Without Waste. We intend to back this vision with a multi-year investment that includes ongoing work to make all our packaging 100% recyclable by the year 2025 and to include 50% recycled content across all our primary packaging globally by 2030.

From our decades of experience with packaging, we are familiar with the challenges—economics, lack of necessary infrastructure and collaboration needs–in advancing more sustainable packaging solutions. And we know more challenges are ahead. Our hope is that our ambitious World Without Waste vision, along with our dedication to addressing gaps with industry, government and civil society, will greatly contribute to reducing our world’s packaging pollution problem.

Through World Without Waste, we have a renewed focus on the entire packaging lifecycle–from how bottles and cans are designed and made to how they’re recycled and repurposed. Our efforts to create more sustainable packaging contribute to our overall climate goal to reduce the carbon footprint of the Coca-Cola “drink in your hand.”

Making the Packaging and Climate Connections

Packaging accounts for 25-30% of our climate goal to reduce the carbon footprint of the “drink in your hand” by 2020. Of this, our calculations show approximately 50% can be attributed to aluminum cans and slightly less than 25% can be attributed to plastic and glass.

While the exact figure is dependent on the technology and infrastructure in use, recycling saves a significant amount of energy compared to processing virgin materials in the production of our packaging materials. There is approximately 95% energy savings in primary aluminum production through the use of recycled materials. In polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin production, using recycled materials saves between 40% and 60% in energy. Our goals of 100% collection, as well as including 50% of recycled material in our primary packaging materials by 2030, will contribute significantly to our carbon emissions reduction goals.

As climate change impacts are progressively felt throughout the world, there is increasing momentum to shift toward low-carbon energy sources and technologies. We are working with our packaging suppliers through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Supply Chain program and our procurement processes to understand opportunities related to moving to these energy sources and technologies. These transitions will, in addition to increasing recycling, help to drive down the carbon footprint of our packaging materials and help to future-proof our supply chains.

Reporting on Progress

Our packaging mix in 2017 consisted of plastic PET bottles (59%), aluminum and steel (12%), refillable glass (8%), refillable PET (6%) non-refillable glass (1%) and other packaging (14%). Most of our predominant packages (bottles and cans–PET, aluminum/steel and glass) are 100% recyclable.

In 2017, we refilled or helped recover and recycle bottles and cans equivalent to approximately 59% of those we introduced into the marketplace that year through the sale of our products. We’re pleased that in Western Europe, we refilled or supported the recovery and recycling of the equivalent of 75% of the bottles and cans we introduced to the region in 2017.

The Coca-Cola Company was one of the first beverage companies to introduce recycled PET (rPET) into a beverage package in 1991, and we continue to increase the use of rPET in countries where feasible and permitted by law.

Investing in Recycling Around the World

The Coca-Cola system has invested in state-of-the-art recycling facilities around the world. An estimated record 2.15 billion PET bottles were collected and recycled in South Africa in 2017, according to South African PET recycling entity PETCO, which 

the Coca-Cola system has been involved with since before its incorporation in 2004. The country has seen an increase in recycling rates from single digits in 2000 to 65% in 2017.

The number of collected and recycled PET bottles in South Africa in 2017 set a post-consumer recycling rate of 65%, putting the country on par with international standards, and created 64,000 income-generating opportunities for formal and informal recyclers and collectors. Coca-Cola South Africa was the first African country to use rPET for its products.

Due to PETCO’s success in South Africa, Coca-Cola will help launch the model in Kenya through the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM). While industry recycling has occurred in Kenya for years, PETCO Kenya will be the plastic industry’s first joint endeavor to self-regulate and create a sustainable approach to PET management.

In Mexico, Coca-Cola is the largest recycler of food grade PET through a more than $125 million investment in the development and installation of two recycling plants: IMER and PetStar. PetStar, the largest food grade recycling plant in the world, uses state-of-the-art technology to produce quality rPET material for food and drink packaging.

Innovating and Collaborating Toward Solutions

Coca-Cola has been a market leader in advancing breakthrough technologies for increasing recycled content and renewable material use. In 2009, we introduced the world to our PlantBottle™ packaging, which is PET plastic made from up to 30% plant-based materials, is fully recyclable and meets the quality requirements of our core beverages. In 2017, 10.5 billion PlantBottle packages were sold. To date, we have distributed over 60 billion PlantBottle packages in 44 markets across 36 brands.

To date, use of PlantBottle packaging has saved more than 48 million gallons of gas because petroleum is used to produce virgin PET. PlantBottle packaging has also avoided more than 430,000 metric tons of potential carbon dioxide emissions. That’s the equivalent of taking more than 90,000 cars off the road.

Another packaging innovation is the DASANI PureFill station, which Coca-Cola North America piloted in 2017 on the Georgia Institute of Technology campus. The innovative machine provides free, ultra-filtered water with the option of adding flavors and/or carbonation for a small fee. DASANI PureFill is paired with a custom-built smartphone app, which lets users track their hydration, geo-locate a nearby machine and utilize a cashless payment system. 

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) launched a new initiative in 2017 in partnership with the University of Reading that will help people reduce their own packaging footprint. The program combines a new generation of smart Coca-Cola fountain dispensers known as Coca-Cola Freestyle machines—with refillable containers that are microchipped to interact with the dispenser technology, allowing students and staff to buy all their soft drinks in reusable bottles. 

Also in 2017, we committed to several packaging partnership initiatives, including the Our Ocean’s Conference in Malta where we pledged to make our packaging 100% recyclable by 2025, along with five other companies that were united by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative; World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Cascading Materials Vision, which includes a set of principles envisioning a global system of efficient, cascading reuse of materials, allowing every business and industry to protect their profits, the environment and the future wealth of natural resources; the World Economic Forum (WEF) Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy; and Closed Loop Ocean (which is now Circulate Capital), designed to fund waste infrastructure solutions in Southeast Asia.

In 2017 in Indonesia, with five other companies we established the Packaging and Recycling Alliance for Indonesia Sustainable Environment (PRAISE), an initiative to advance plastic waste solutions. Aligning with the Indonesian government’s move toward a circular economy, this approach to waste management engages with stakeholders in government and civil society.

Learn more about our sustainable packaging initiatives at www.coca-colacompany.com/learn-more-about-sustainable-packaging and view Coca-Cola Great Britain’s “Love Story,” the first-ever ad made out of 100% recyclable packaging