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This Environment Month, Coca-Cola celebrates increased PET recycling rates in South Africa 

As National Environment Month in June encourages everyone to Reimagine, Recover and Restore our global ecosystems, Coca-Cola continues to recognise its important role in empowering and investing in the South African recycling sector.

Through its commitment to designing, collecting, and partnering to achieve a World Without Waste, Coca-Cola aims to recycle a bottle or can for each one it sells by 2030. The company is also working on designing packaging that is 100% recyclable by 2025 and ensuring that all its bottles contain 50% recycled material by 2030. The company’s global goal is to be net-zero carbon by 2050.

Babongile Mandela, Director, Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability, Coca-Cola South Africa Franchise, said, “The global conversation about plastic pollution—and calls for urgent, collaborative action—are intensifying. Increasing reusable packaging and dispensed options responds to our consumers’ preferences for affordability and sustainability, making it one of several sustainable commercial levers to help achieve our World Without Waste goals and contribute to the circular economy.”

Through its partnership with the PET Recycling Company (PETCO) in South Africa, Coca-Cola is indirectly helping to collect and divert packaging waste from landfills by supporting the recycling sector while creating economic opportunities.

PETCO’s 2021 Annual Report, released earlier in June, shows that its funded collection volume increased by 14%, from 79,078 tonnes in 2020 to 90,402 tonnes in 2021. This represents the collection of 63% of the PET packaging waste placed on the South African market by its members. In addition, the availability of food-grade recycled plastics (rPET) in 2021 increased by 17% through PETCO support.

“We strive to make beverage packaging part of the circular economy. Packaging materials have value, and we needed to capture that value in the design process and prevent it from becoming waste at the end of its life. Coca-Cola’s World Without Waste commitment does this by helping change the consumer’s perception of plastics from “disposable” to “valuable”, i.e., integral to the circular economy,” explained Mandela.

In partnership with several corporates and 40 municipalities, PETCO also provided financial support and equipment for more than 250 projects. In addition, training was provided to more than 1,600 stakeholders from the informal collection sector to support their collection operations and businesses. The result was that it collected roughly 2.1 billion bottles in the year (5.7 million bottles daily).

“Coca-Cola’s purpose is to refresh the world and make a difference. We understand that our business can only flourish if our continent flourishes too. Therefore, we act in ways to create a more sustainable and better future: doing business the right way is making a difference to our planet,” he added.

Earlier this year, the Coca-Cola Africa Operating Unit (AOU) and its bottling partners launched JAMII, the Africa-focused sustainability platform that will house existing and new sustainability initiatives. Coca-Cola’s approach to sustainability focuses on achieving the most significant impact and tackling the issues that matter most.

Through JAMII, Coca-Cola collaborates with like-minded partners to help accelerate the on-the-ground impact of its initiatives in the areas that reflect its value chain: water, waste and wealth (also referred to as the economic empowerment of women and youth). The company is committed to sustainable water use, a World Without Waste (through sustainable packaging design and recycling) and empowering our people and communities.

Beach clean-ups and water stewardship

Earlier this month, bottling partner Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages (CCPB) kicked off one of its projects on World Environment Day 2022 on the 5th of June with a beach clean-up at Sunset Beach, Milnerton. This supported the Plastic Free Mzansi 2022 campaign, bringing together various partners to drive a campaign of caring for the environment and people.

CCPB is bringing positive change toward creating a World Without Waste. The pandemic highlighted the interconnected nature of our world and revealed that the best solutions often lie in local capacity, collaboration and knowledge that can be scaled. It aims to create this through a more sustainable business and a better, shared future for our people and the communities in which we operate.

Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA), Coca-Cola’s other bottling partner, has also made sustainability integral to its business strategy. For example, in 2020, CCBSA launched its Coke Ville project, an off-grid solar-powered groundwater harvesting and treatment programme. This project targets indigent communities that are facing water insecurity challenges. To date, more than 15 000 households across Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal have benefited from 150 million litres of water. For Coca-Cola, water stewardship throughout is critical to the company’s long-term sustainability.

Packaging design

Since 2020, CCBSA has successfully launched its 2-litre returnable bottles, also known as refillable PET (RefPET), in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo, North-West, Mpumalanga and parts of the Free State. There are plans underway to expand this re-useable packaging to offer consumers value for money, while including them as an important part of the recycling value chain. A 1.5-litre bottle has been in existence for many years in the Western Cape.

Further innovation across the Coca-Cola System includes the Bonaqua brand 500ml bottle, which is now made from 100% rPET, and the iconic green Sprite bottle has gone “clear”, meaning more bottles can be collected, recycled and reused to make new bottles.

The Coca-Cola Company’s global packaging target is 100% recyclable by 2025 and 50% made from recyclable material by 2030. In this way, the company continues to refresh the world and make a difference.

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