Partnerships prove the answer to Coca-Cola Enterprises recycling goals

Coca-Cola Enterprises has invested in two joint-ventures to improve the capacity for plastics reprocessing in its two largest markets

What’s the background? Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) has a sustainability plan with a vision to become “a low-carbon, zero waste business” and wants to be a leader in sustainable packaging and recycling. This requires collaboration and interventions at each stage of the packaging chain: materials, design, disposal, recovery and recycling.

CCE's Commitments include:

  • A 25% reduction in the amount of material used by 2020.
  • Include recycled PET (rPET) as well as plant-based PET in all PET bottles.
  • Improve the recyclability of packaging.
  • Collaborate with existing national collection schemes in markets with high packaging recovery rates, or invest in strategic infrastructure projects where needed.

CCE has invested in two joint-ventures to improve the capacity for plastics reprocessing in its two largest markets: Great Britain and France. In these countries, around half of the PET plastic disposed of is not collected for recycling and much of what is collected was being sent abroad for reprocessing – creating restrictions in the supply of locally available rPET.

Give us the low-down on how the initiative was implemented CCE appointed a dedicated recycling director in 2010 who built a team with the overall objective of transforming recycling in its markets.

Having first considered options for developing in-house recycling capability in countries with low packaging recovery rates, the team then created a strong business case for CCE to work in partnership with leading established plastics reprocessors instead.

In Great Britain, CCE invested £5m to develop Continuum, a joint venture with ECO Plastics which opened in May 2012. Now the biggest plastic bottle reprocessing facility in the world, it produces 25,000 tonnes of rPET a year, more than doubling the amount of food-grade rPET produced in Great Britain.

To get the facility ready for the Olympics involved a cross-functional team who delivered a record-breaking build, turning a potato field into a food-grade recycling facility and achieving first-time approvals within eight months.

In France, in October 2012, CCE invested €6.5m in a joint venture with PET recycler APPE to boost the capacity of its facility by 70%. The enlarged plant will recycle 20,000 additional tonnes of plastics per year and significantly increase the amount of rPET available in France.

What impact has your initiative had on your business and the environment? CCE’s investments have intervened in a critical point in the packaging-recycling lifecycle and ensure that the increasing demand for recycled PET can be met.

In Great Britain, Continuum has already supplied CCE with enough high quality rPET to include 25% rPET in all its plastic packaging and has more than doubled the amount of food-grade rPET previously available in the country.

In early February 2013, the facility announced it had reprocessed its 250 millionth bottle in less than nine months of operation.

Continuum also recycled around 15 million bottles collected at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, returning them to the shelves as new bottles within six weeks.

Internally, the Continuum facility is now the benchmark for best practice across the entire Coca-Cola System.

In France, the construction of a new line at APPE’s existing recycling facility in Beaune will begin in Q2 2013. The enlarged plant will recycle 20,000 additional tonnes of plastic into food-grade packaging per year – an increase of 70%, significantly increasing the amount of rPET available in France.

And why does your story deserve to win a 2degrees Waste and Resource Management award? CCE’s comprehensive approach demonstrates true leadership in the area of waste and recycling. CCE’s recycling joint ventures have intervened in a critical point in the packaging-recycling lifecycle and ensure that the increasing demand for recycled PET can be met. They have created a step-change, both within the industry and within CCE’s own business model.

CCE demonstrates true understanding of the packaging value chain and is intervening at every stage. Recently, CCE launched a unique research partnership with the University of Exeter to explore consumer behaviors at home towards recycling.

Indeed, investments in recycling infrastructure are necessary from a recycling and reprocessing capacity perspective, but innovation is also needed to ensure more bottles enter the recycling stream. Recycling rates in Great Britain and France remain low, despite growing awareness of environmental concerns. CCE wants to find out why people’s good intentions don’t always translate into action – and more importantly how it, as a business, can lead change.

This article forms Coca-Cola Enterprises’ submission into the Waste & Resource Management category of the 2degrees Sustainability Champions Awards 2013. It was written and submitted by Dorothee de Montgolfier, senior manager, Coca-Cola Enterprises.

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