Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor

April 26, 2017

3 Min Read
Ahh…Coke refreshes its sustainable packaging strategy

Even Coca-Cola can’t do it alone. Development of its groundbreaking PlantBottle needed a helping hand from the global beverage giant’s packaging technology partners. The company’s sustainable packaging lead Sarah Dearman will share Coca-Cola’s new sustainable packaging strategy, including supplier sourcing, at the upcoming SustPack 2017 event.

Her keynote—“The key role that sourcing plays in Coca-Cola’s new Sustainable Packaging Strategy and advancements in PlantBottle Packaging”—is scheduled for Day 2 of the conference on Tues., April 25, at 10:45 a.m. (Sustainable packaging sourcing is also a focus area in the Packaging Digest 2017 Sustainable Packaging Study. We invite you to participate by answering our questionnaire here.)

Dearman gives Packaging Digest some insight into her topic.

What makes your partnerships with sustainable packaging technology suppliers so powerful and successful?

Dearman: The Coca-Cola Co.’s goal is to reduce the carbon footprint of our packaging. We know that we can’t do it alone. The way we can maximize progress is by working together. Our suppliers play a critical role by working together to advance innovation to help enable all parties to meet their goals.

Continued advancement in sustainable packaging means being open to newer technologies as they develop. How does Coca-Cola encourage and embrace new technologies while still moving in the right direction on its sustainability path?

Dearman: Our consumers’ desires and expectations are evolving. We know that we must continue innovating to stay ahead of these needs. This includes minimizing our impact on the environment.

To help manage and understand these impacts, we conduct lifecycle assessments on our packaging. We also partner with organizations such as World Wildlife Fund and the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance.

Additionally, we leverage valuable resources and collaboration opportunities, such as through the Sustainable Packaging Coalition

Coca-Cola introduced the PlantBottle in 2009 (see photo above), with 30% of the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) package made from sugar cane and sugar cane waste. In 2015, the company unveiled a 100% plant-based PlantBottle. Where do you go with further development once you’ve hit 100%—and why?

Dearman: PlantBottle packaging, which is a fully recyclable PET package made partially from plants, is a really exciting innovation. It’s continuing to roll out across our portfolio, currently making up about one third of our PET packaging in the U.S.

We are working now on reducing the cost and further improving the environmental benefit of using renewable materials through technologies that will allow us to use a larger variety of feedstocks. This will enable us to locally source feedstocks, which will help to further reduce carbon emissions in our supply chain.


What key point will attendees hear in your presentation at SustPack 2017?

Dearman: I’m honored to be participating in SustPack 2017. During my session, I will talk about how we are working to advance the sustainability of our packaging from design to sourcing and recovery. I hope that by providing a few examples of what is working for us, I may be able to help others advance their sustainable packaging initiatives.

The New Plastics Economy is committed to increasing the recycling rate of plastic packaging to 70% by 2025, up from just 14% now. How is Coca-Cola helping to get there?

Dearman: The Coca-Cola Co. has a long-standing commitment to ensuring our packages are recyclable and we are working to recover them. We believe collaboration is key to advancing this work.

In North America, we are supporting a strong recycling system by investing in increased access and participation through collaboration with organizations such as the Closed Loop Fund, Recycling Partnership and Keep America Beautiful. Through partnerships like these, we have helped place more than 800,000 recycling carts and bins in communities throughout the U.S.


Learn about the latest developments in sustainable packaging at PackEx Toronto 2017 (May 16-18; Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Register today!

About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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