Reflections on our approach to packaging, recycling and circularity in 2022
Stephen Moorhouse, Vice President and General Manager, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) GB
As the year draws to a close, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the challenges and achievements over the past year before embarking on what’s to come.
As the largest soft drinks supplier in Great Britain, we are committed to finding solutions to shared sustainability challenges. We are continually setting ambitious goals and innovating to help create real change, and our latest packaging initiatives are helping us to do just that. But we know that there are many factors at play, including how we bring our customers and consumers on this journey with us.
During a recent panel discussion at our Real Talk forum this month, a platform designed to drive collaboration to tackle the big sustainability issues, we heard from industry peers including M&S Food, McDonald’s and WWF UK, who shared their take on the future of packaging. Their insights made very clear that many packaging challenges and issues resonate across multiple sectors, and that we need to leverage our position as industry leaders to champion innovation.
At Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP), we’ve invested millions of pounds into our manufacturing sites across GB to trial and roll-out the latest developments in packaging to do exactly that.
We recently became the first major soft drinks company to announce a switch to attached caps across our entire portfolio. This means that the cap stays attached to the plastic bottle once it’s been opened, making it easier to recycle the whole package and prevent waste. We plan to roll out the change across our entire range of plastic bottles by the end of 2024.
Our transition to 100% recycled plastic (rPET) for all 500ml bottles is increasing the amount of recycled plastic material in smaller bottles too, and is helping us to save more than 29,000 tonnes of virgin plastic each year.
We’ve also replaced plastic shrink wrap with sustainability cardboard for our 24-packs of 330ml cans across Coca-Cola products. This swap has helped us eliminate around 250 tonnes of packaging since its introduction earlier this year.
And we’re continuing ongoing trials of dispensed and refillable technology to help reduce the amount of packaging needed to enjoy our drinks. This year we began a controlled trial of our latest beverage dispensing machine, the New Compact Freestyle, which allows people to use their own vessels and eliminate the need for PET, glass or aluminium packaging.
Many of our peers are also working hard to ensure the responsible sourcing of packaging. Building on this momentum together going forwards is crucial. The more we can take a systems approach the more we can achieve collectively at pace.
While 2022 was not without its challenges, the desire to drive environmental initiatives forward, faster, has only increased. The climate challenge is very much under the spotlight, strengthening a desire for change among consumers and businesses alike we’re facing huge challenges when it comes to the environment, plastics and plastic waste. From a Coca-Cola perspective, we also acknowledge that we are certainly part of the challenge, however, we’re also hopefully part of the solution.
Collaboration really is at the heart of an attainable, sustainable future and we must work closely with policy makers, other businesses, and consumers to make real, lasting change.
We also owe a large part of our successful initiatives to the partnerships with our 14,500 suppliers and supply chain partners.
The year ahead
While we’re making important steps towards achieving Net Zero targets, we know we need to accelerate the pace with impactful new recycling initiatives.
The first deposit return scheme (DRS) in the UK is expected to roll out in Scotland in the summer of 2023 which we are strong advocates of, as we know it’s the optimal way to get plastic back to recycle.
However, as is true with all recycling initiatives, we believe that collaboration is the key to running a successful scheme. In the year to come, we hope to see a more unified UK DRS rollout, with England and Wales hopefully to implement their own later in 2024.
It’s also important to continue innovating packaging beyond the bottle and we will look to pursue further packageless trials in 2023.
We’ve made positive steps to support a more circular economy this year. However, there is much work still to be done. Having reflected on successes and learnings to date, I am optimistic for what we can achieve in the months ahead, but we need to get to scale, and our commitment remains to move further, faster with our industry partners, with cross-sector collaboration playing a key role. I look forward to looking back on progress made by the end of 2023.