The Coca-Cola reusable packaging initiative is one that the company describes as an industry-leading goal to significantly boost its use of reusable packaging. By 2030, the company aims to have at least 25% of all beverages globally across its portfolio of brands sold in refillable/returnable glass or plastic bottles, or in refillable containers through traditional fountain or Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensers.
“Reusable packaging is among the most effective ways to reduce waste, use fewer resources and lower our carbon footprint in support of a circular economy,” said Ben Jordan, Senior Director, Packaging and Climate of The Coca-Cola Company. “We will continue to highlight markets that are leading the way with reusable packaging best practices, and to support other markets as they increase their use of reusable packaging,” Jordan said, adding that each market will approach the goal in a different way.
“We continue to put consumers at the center of all we do,” commented Elaine Bowers Coventry, Chief Customer & Commercial Officer, The Coca-Cola Company. “One way to do that is by offering sustainable packaging types. Accelerating the use of reusable packages provides added value for consumers and customers while supporting our World Without Waste goal to collect a bottle or can for every one we sell by 2030.”
The company’s World Without Waste initiative remains focused on its three core pillars:
DESIGN: Make all of its primary consumer packaging recyclable by 2025, and use 50% recycled material in its packaging by 2030.
COLLECT: Collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one it sells by 2030.
PARTNER: Bring people together to support a healthy, debris-free environment.
“By increasing our use of reusable packaging,” the company stated in a release, “we promote a circular economy as refillable containers have high levels of collection and are low-carbon footprint beverage containers because the container collection is built into the beverage delivery model.’
As the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) notes in its Reuse: Rethinking Packaging report, converting 20% of global plastic packaging into reuse models is a $10 billion business opportunity that benefits customers and represents a crucial element in the quest to eliminate plastic waste and pollution.
Coca Cola Reusable Packaging: Proven Track Record
Coca-Cola reusable packaging programs have already been widely established. Returnable glass bottles and refillable PET currently represent more than 50% of The Coca-Cola Company’s product sales in more than 20 markets and more than 25% of sales in another 20 markets.
Traditional refillable/returnable packaging accounted for approximately 16% of the company’s total volume in 2020. The use of refillables is growing in several markets, outperforming non-refillables in Germany and parts of Latin America, where reusable bottles represented 27% of transactions in 2020. Markets around the world have increased their focus on refillable packaging in recent years through initiatives that include:
- Expanding the rollout of the “Universal Bottle” that was first introduced in 2018 by Coca-Cola Brazil and is now used in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Panama. This innovative solution drives the efficiency of collection, cleaning, and filling by offering multiple sparkling and still brands in the same reusable bottle with a single color, shape, and size. EMF recognized the Universal Bottle as a leading practice on reuse.
- Expanding the rollout of refillable 2-liter and 1.5-liter PET (RefPET) plastic bottles—which can be cleaned, refilled, and reused before being recycled and made into new PET bottles—in South Africa.
- Collaborating with Carrefour to pilot a circular shopping system called Loop™ in France. Consumers can order a variety of products, including Coca-Cola beverages, delivered to their home in customized packaging that is collected, cleaned, refilled, and reused or recycled.
- Partnering with Burger King® and TerraCycle in the United States for a pilot program in select cities to reduce single-use packaging waste by offering reusable food containers and beverage cups.
- Introducing reusable cups with microchip technology for use with Coca-Cola Freestyle machines for use at theme parks, and on university campuses and cruise ships.
“These and other similar sustainability efforts helped pave the way for the global reusable packaging target we are announcing today, which will require significant investment, particularly in markets with limited refillable/returnable infrastructure,” the release concluded.
Kate Melges, Greenpeace USA Global Plastics Corporate Lead, responded positively to the announcement.“It’s great to see Coca-Cola take this significant step to set global targets for reusable packaging. This is a long-awaited move in the right direction that other companies need to follow in order to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. Coke can build on this leadership move by doubling the commitment to 50% reusables by 2030. By embracing reuse, Coke has an opportunity to lead big brands out of their reliance on single-use plastic packaging into the low carbon, zero-waste economy that our planet, communities and climate desperately need.”
Chas Miller, writing in Waste360, was critical regarding the lack of specificity in the Coca-Cola release and other corporate sustainability pledges:
Coke isn’t the only company putting out press releases announcing recyclability and recycled content goals. Unilever, Mars, Walmart, and a host of other companies are rushing to burnish their green credentials. They are proclaiming their dedication to design for recycling, to use as much recycled content as possible, and to recycle more.
Their press releases and goals have interesting similarities. Goals are usually set for 2025 and 2030 and are usually 25 or 50 or even 100 percent. They also lack specificity. 2025 and 2030 goals are nice. But what are their goals for 2022 and each year leading up to 2025 and 2030?
Bottom line, a lot of companies have been making commitments to shift to recyclable, recycled content or reusable packaging, but typically, without anything or much in the way of evidence regarding transitioning to reuse as an option. In that regard, at least, the Coca-Cola announcement is a positive step.
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