Beverage brands bank on rPET for packaging sustainability

By Rick Lingle in Sustainable Packaging on September 11, 2019

Coca-Cola European Partners commits to 100% recycled plastic bottles for Honest teas, Glacéau Smartwater and Chaudfontaine brands—and to trialing refillable glass bottles.

 

Different continents, different tactics.

In August, Packaging Digest reported Coca-Cola Co.’s new broad-based sustainable packaging plan for Dasani packaged water that includes major moves into hybrid bottles and aluminum cans (see Dasani’s next 5 steps to greater packaging sustainability).

The company’s counterpart in Europe, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), is taking a different, more concentrated path to greater sustainability.

Earlier this summer and together with The Coca-Cola Co., CCEP announced that Honest teas, Glacéau Smartwater and Chaudfontaine bottled water brands will be sold in bottles made from 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) plastic. The rollout planned to start in early 2020 will eliminate the need for 9,000 tonnes/9,920 tons of virgin plastic yearly across Western Europe.

The initiative directly supports the organizations’ joint sustainability action commitment, This is Forward, that pledges that by 2025 at least half of the plastic used in PET bottles across Western Europe will come from recycled sources.

CCEP’s ambitious plan is also remarkable for its scope: CCEP is the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler, operating in 13 countries and distributing branded beverages to more than 300 million consumers.

Joe Franses, CCEP VP, Sustainability, discloses details about the company’s landmark program in packaging sustainability. 

What set this in motion and what’s involved?

Franses: Managing the sustainability of our packaging is one of the biggest issues facing our business. Too much packaging waste ends up as litter on our streets or polluting our rivers and oceans.

And, as a beverage industry leader, we understand that we are part of the problem and need to do more to tackle it. 

Moving our Chaudfontaine, Honest and Smartwater brands to 100% rPET is a significant step on this journey and involves every element of our business, from finance to supply chain. This will help us to remove 9,000 tonnes of virgin plastic across Western Europe each year and it directly supports our commitment to ensure that, by 2025, at least half of the plastic used in our PET bottles across Western Europe comes from recycled sources.

This commitment will help us to build a strong circular economy for beverage packaging, where plastic can be collected, recycled and reused.

This major move would not have been possible without our PET resin suppliers. To roll out bottles made from 100% recycled plastic across three of our brands has required building a pipeline of high-quality, food-grade rPET to help us fulfil demand. To secure a reliable supply of 100% rPET for years to come, we’ve forged long-term supply agreements with a number of partners including Loop Industries—a technology innovator in sustainable plastic that turns low-value plastic waste into high-quality PET. Loop Industries will play a crucial role in helping us to source significant quantities of high-quality food-grade rPET to use in our 100% rPET bottles.

We will purchase 100% upcycled PET from Loop to accelerate the use of recycled materials in our bottles, which will be crucial to helping us expand the use of recycled plastic in bottles across our whole portfolio.

 

Why is the timing good for using rPET?

Franses: The plastic problem isn’t going to go away anytime soon, and we know we need to do more to tackle it–and faster. That’s why we’re redoubling our efforts to make our packaging more sustainable and realize our goal of ensuring that all our bottles can enjoy a second life. Our ambition is for none of our bottles to end up as litter or in the oceans.

Currently, around one-third of the plastic we use is recycled plastic; we expect to achieve and exceed our target of getting to half of our plastic will be rPET by 2025. We will start to rollout the new rPET bottles at the start of 2020. From then onwards, wherever consumers find Chaudfontaine, Honest and Smartwater across Western Europe, they can buy them in bottles made from 100% recycled plastic.

 

What are the bottles made of now? What will be the status by the end of 2019?

Franses: In 2017, 24.6% of all the plastic used in our bottles came from recycled materials and in 2018 that figure increased to 27.6%. By the end of 2020 every Honest, Glacéau Smartwater or Chaudfontaine bottle will be sold in 100% rPET bottles.

We have worked hard to ensure the highest quality food grade rPET is available to make this transition to 100% rPET for these three products with no impact on quality or recyclability.

 

What's the cost of these efforts?

Franses: Today, rPET is more expensive than virgin PET, but it’s a resource that we have invested in for many years.

 

How will this program be promoted?

Franses: The move will be communicated via multiple channels, including on social media, traditional media and on-bottle messaging encouraging consumers to recycle the products.

 

Next: Partnerships, Sprite changes, refillable bottles and more

 

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Packaging professionals will find pre-Halloween packaging treats in Minnesota during MinnPack 2019 (Oct. 23-24; Minneapolis) in the form of solutions for food packaging, package design, shipping and more. Attend free expert-led sessions at multiple theaters around the expo.

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Rick Lingle

Rick Lingle is senior technical editor of Packaging Digest. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-481-1426.

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