Breakthrough technology can transform low-quality plastic into high-quality food-grade packaging.
Coca-Cola is unveiling its first ever sample bottle made using recovered and recycled marine plastics, demonstrating that, one day, even ocean debris could be used in recycled packaging for food or drinks. This sample is also the first ever example of food and drink packaging made using marine litter.
About 300 bottles have been produced using 25% recycled marine plastic, retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea and beaches. A small step for now, but the technology behind it has big implications…
Recycling the unrecyclable
The marine plastic bottle has been developed to show the transformational potential of revolutionary ‘enhanced recycling’ technologies, which can recycle previously used PET of any quality back to the high-quality needed for food or drinks packaging.
Enhanced recycling technologies use innovative processes that break down the components of plastic and strip out impurities in lower-grade recyclables so they can be rebuilt as good as new. This means that lower-grade plastics that were often destined for incineration or landfill can now be given a new life. It also means more materials are available to make recycled content, reducing the amount of virgin PET needed from fossil fuels, and resulting in a lower carbon footprint.
The sample bottle is the result of a partnership between Ioniqa Technologies, Indorama Ventures, Mares Circulares (Circular Seas) and The Coca-Cola Company. Although enhanced recycling is still in its infancy, the partners are producing the sample marine plastic bottle as a proof of concept for what the technology may achieve in time.
In the immediate term, enhanced recycling will be introduced at commercial scale using waste streams from existing recyclers, including previously unrecyclable plastics and lower-quality recyclables. From 2020, Coca-Cola plans to roll out this enhanced recycled content in some of its bottles.
Working towards zero waste
Bruno van Gompel, Technical and Supply Chain Director, Coca-Cola Western Europe, says the potential for the technology is huge: “Enhanced recycling technologies are enormously exciting, not just for us but for industry and society at large. They accelerate the prospect of a closed-loop economy for plastic, which is why we are investing behind them. As these begin to scale, we will see all kinds of used plastics returned, as good as new, not just once but again and again, diverting waste streams from incineration and landfill.”
Next steps in our sustainability ambitions
Today we’re also announcing that across Western Europe we’re on a mission to get to 100% recycled plastic in all of our bottles.
In Great Britain, we are on track to reach our target of moving to 50% next year, but we don’t want to stop there. While one of the challenges of moving past 50% has been the limited availability of food-grade quality recycled plastic, we hope that the new technology opens up new streams of material.
We also believe introduction of a well-designed Deposit Return Scheme in Great Britain will increase the feed of food-grade plastic available in GB and help us to reach this target of 100% as well as reduce litter.
Source : Coca Cola UK website
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