It’s a really good question…

I know that to some people 50% may not seem ambitious enough. People do ask us why we don’t use bottles with 100% recycled content for all our drinks. The fact is there are a number of challenges we’re facing at the moment that we need to tackle so we can move beyond 50% and towards 100% recycled bottles. 

Strict quality standards

We make more than 20 different drinks here in Great Britain. We’re a big business and plastic bottles make up around 30% of the packaging we use. Any packaging that contains food or drink has to meet very strict quality standards, and that includes the quality of any recycled material which goes into that packaging. This means our plastic bottles have to be of the very highest quality – what we call ‘food grade’. People rightly expect us to make sure our packaging and products are of this food-grade quality. 

By 2020 we’ll double the amount of food-grade recycled plastic we use

We currently buy more food-grade recycled PET (plastic) than any other food or drinks company in Great Britain – and by 2020 we will double this amount. We spread its use across the bottles of all our brands, rather than, as some companies have chosen to do, make one size bottle for particular brand from 100% recycled PET. We’d like to go further – but the issue we face is purchasing enough high-quality (food-grade) recycled plastic to put back into our bottles.   

Europe’s biggest reprocessor of plastics

We work closely with CleanTech, Europe’s biggest reprocessor of plastics for food-grade packaging.  Every year, CleanTech’s facility in Lincolnshire, produces thousands of tonnes of pellets of recycled plastic that get made into new plastic packaging.

We’re CleanTech’s biggest customer and our decision to double the recycled content of all our bottles by 2020 has stimulated millions of pounds of new investment into the facility to increase its capacity. This will enable CleanTech to meet our growing demand for recycled plastic from within the UK – which we think is important. After all, importing recycled plastic from overseas will significantly increase the carbon footprint of our packaging.

CleanTech needs a regular supply of relatively clean, used plastic

To produce the highest-quality, food-grade recycled plastic required by manufacturers like us, it is important that CleanTech receives a regular supply of relatively clean, used plastic – called ‘feedstock’ – into its facility.

A challenge for CleanTech is that the bales of plastic they receive from the different household collection schemes operated on behalf of the UK’s 400 plus local authorities, are of varying quality. Most contain a lot of mixed plastics, such as old plastic bags, films and other items that would be better separated from plastic bottles.

We support a well-designed deposit-return scheme

Because of this, one of the things we want to focus on is how we can help improve both the quantity and quality of packaging collection across Great Britain. That’s why we support the introduction of a well-designed deposit return scheme. We’re calling for more consistency in the way in which we all recycle our waste at home.    

We want to use our brands to inspire people to recycle

It’s also about how we at Coca-Cola can better use our brands and marketing know how to inspire more people to recycle their empty packaging. We’re doing this now and working with WRAP and its Recycle Now campaign to raise awareness of the importance of recycling.

Once we have more, better-quality plastic bottles being recovered for reprocessing here in the UK, we will move as quickly as we can to move beyond 50% recycled plastic in our bottles and ever closer to 100%.

Ultimately, we want to see a world without waste, where our bottles and cans are all collected and never end up as litter or in the oceans. We know there is a long way to go, but we’re committed to making changes that make a difference.

Find out more about our ambition for a sustainable future