Inside Coca-Cola’s plan to tackle global plastic pollution

An increasing number of companies are turning recycled plastics into finished products as the call for sustainable manufacturing practices gains traction.

Across the world, roughly one million plastic bottles are sold every minute but just about 15 per cent of that volume ever gets to the recycling plants.

In order to align with increasing customer demand, innovative manufacturers are shifting their efforts towards business models and products that meet the expectations of sustainability-minded consumers.

Leading research shows that scientists have come up with enzymes that can turn the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) primarily used in making plastic bottles into the basic elements, terephthalic acid (TA), which can further be processed into vanillin.

Vanillin is an essential chemical that is used in industries to make many products such as herbicides, cleaning products, as well as pharmaceuticals.

Recycled plastic materials are also being used in industries to make carpets and clothing fibers.

In a move that could help make recycling more attractive and tackle global plastic pollution, the Coca-Cola system in Kenya has unveiled a new-look bottle for their sparkling soft drink Sprite.

The lemon-lime flavored Sprite will now be packaged in a clear PET plastic bottle that can be collected, recycled and processed to make a wide range of new products.

Read also: IMF approves Kenya’s economic reforms plan for Sh44 billion loan tranche

The company’s branding shift for Sprite from the iconic green bottle that has been in use since 1960 aligns with Coca-Cola’s World Without Waste vision that aims at collecting and recycling the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells by 2030, as well as use 50 per cent recycled content in all their packaging.

“This is a plus in our joint efforts to grow our business while contributing towards more sustainable environmental practices,” said Xavi Selga, Managing Director, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA) – Kenya during the launch in Nairobi.

Clear PET can be recycled and re-used to make a wide range of new products such as pillow and duvet inners, and new bottles, making it more valuable than the green PET, which has limited uses.

Kenya becomes the fourth African market where Coca-Cola has introduced the Sprite clear PET, after South Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

“We know that our vision for a World Without Waste is ambitious and can be challenging but together with our partners, we are committed to the cause. This move also allows us to work with partners in the recycling industry, and with waste collectors and aggregators to achieve more value for our recyclable plastics,” said Debra Mallowah, Vice President, Coca-Cola East and Central Africa Franchise.

Plastic bottles usually shed a significant value as a material after a single use therefore encouraging better collection and re-use is a critical step in helping tackle the global menace associated with plastic waste.

“Additionally, clear PET plastic contributes to economic empowerment as it will lead to enhanced income for waste reclaimers in Kenya, who depend on collecting and selling packaging waste for a living,” added Ms Mallowah.

With presence in over 200 countries, including Kenya, Coca-Cola Sprite’s new transparent look features a clear see-through bottle, refreshed icon of the brand’s bold Sprite ‘spark’ with a distinct label and bright green cover.

Coca-Cola is a member of PETCO Kenya (PET Recycling Company Ltd), an industry-led PET recycling scheme that draws 16 industry players from different sectors.

PETCO seeks to coordinate initiatives to collect, sort and recycle plastic bottles, with broader focus on sustainable management of PET material after their initial use.

The process is undertaken in partnership with recyclers, who make new products out of disposed PET material.

Coca-Cola says the new clear Sprite PET bottle is 100 per cent recyclable and therefore increases the value of the plastic in the after-use market and its ability to remain in the circular economy to be re-used for different purposes.

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