Everyone knows the worrying truth that the planet’s resources are finite. The linear way we consume goods and services - taking, making, using and then disposing - is not a future we can continue to live in. That’s why Coca-Cola GB is committed to the circular economy: a different – and more sustainable - way of looking at things.
‘What is the circular economy?’
The circular economy is a new take on what is probably a more familiar mantra: “reduce, reuse, recycle” that looks to keep materials in use for as long as possible. It aims to use as few new materials as possible in the first place, make the absolute most of all resources, extend the useful life of a product as much as possible and then recover and recycle them to help reduce the need for virgin materials*.
For us at Coca-Cola GB, it’s a way to reduce the amount of resources we use, by reusing them as much as possible and then recycling them back into useable resources whenever we can. So it is about much more than simply recycling.
We want to make the most of every material we use.
* For anybody wondering, virgin materials are resources that have never been used in the manufacturing process previously.
‘OK… but how does it work?’
A very good question.
We examine every individual step in our supply and manufacturing chain, and make sure that at each step we make the most of the resources we already have.
1. Manufacturing: We make sure our drinks packaging is 100% recyclable and uses the minimum amount of materials and energy in its production as possible. While all our six British manufacturing sites send zero waste to landfill, we also look to minimise the proportion of waste which is unrecyclable.
2. Distribution: We have a fleet of delivery trucks on Britain’s roads every day. Wherever possible, we aim to reduce the energy and carbon footprint used in our distribution process – for example through systems like ‘backhauling’ – making sure there’s never an empty truck on the road.
3. Influencing consumer behaviour: We encourage people to recycle empty cans and bottles both at home and on-the-go through clear labelling, running special awareness programes with the companies who sell our drinks, and through the work we’ve done to invest in and improve local recycling facilities.
4. Reuse: We reuse product packaging such as glass, aluminium and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic to make the lifespan of our cans and bottles last longer. This completes the circle, from our manufacturing through to you, the consumers, and back around again. Materials like aluminium are pretty much infinitely recyclable, retaining quality, but PET does eventually get to the point where the quality breaks down and we have to start with fresh materials again: this is why our innovations such as PlantBottle plastic – made from renewable sources like sugarcane – are so important. We also have a really efficient system for repairing and refurbishing our fridges and vending machines at a 'cold drinks' centre in Milton Keynes.
5. Repeat: We want to keep this circle spinning, constantly aiming to make each step more efficient.
‘Why does it matter?’
For a whole host of reasons, but we’ll give you 3 stand-out ones.
1. It lowers the need for virgin materials
The planet’s resources are limited, and with every passing day these resources continue to shrink. By giving our drinks packaging life after disposal, our dependence on virgin materials can shrink instead.
2. It leads to cleaner manufacturing
Creating products from recycled materials is more efficient than creating products from virgin materials. Every can or bottle made with recycled aluminium or plastic is more environmentally friendly than anything made from scratch. This results in a lower carbon footprint alongside less damage to the environment (for example from logging or mining for raw materials).
3. It sets a green example
The benefits of the circular economy are plentiful, but the only way for it to work fully is for every company and person to join in. Every company that adds to the list of circular economy success stories boosts the chances for another company to follow suit. The more people that embrace this philosophy, the better it is for every company, every person and – ultimately - our planet.
‘What can I do to help?’
That may be the most important question of all.
We’re always looking for ways to rethink each step on the supply chain, but there is one part that is out of our hands...
We actively encourage people to recycle whenever they can. For the circular economy to work at its fullest potential, it matters more than ever. Every can or bottle can be used again and again, and that recycling / reusing process is now more efficient than ever before. But if you don’t recycle, the circle is broken.
Every can or bottle that doesn’t get recycled is a wasted opportunity for it to have a life again.
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