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[1], 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 project used plastic retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea and beaches.

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.

This is just the latest action we’re taking as part of our GB Sustainable Packaging Strategy. Find our more here.

Innovation through partnership: how we made it happen

Coca-Cola’s breakthrough sample bottle has been designed and developed by bringing together several key partnerships:

  • Coastal clean ups: the marine plastic contained in the bottles was collected and recovered by volunteers who participated in 84 beach cleanups in Spain and Portugal and fishermen in 12 ports across the Mediterranean Sea, as part of the Mares Circulares or “Circular Seas” project. Mares Circulares, partially funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation, is a collaboration between the Coca-Cola system in Iberia, Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food & the Environment and three leading non-profit organisations — Chelonia Association, Ecomar Foundation and Vertidos Cero Association.
  • Technological innovation: In January 2019, Coca-Cola extended a loan to Ioniqa Technologies in the Netherlands to help scale its proprietary enhanced recycling technology.  The marine litter collected through Mares Circulares was recycled by Ioniqa Technologies, using enhanced recycling processes, back into the building blocks needed to make food-grade PET.
  • Industry collaboration: Indorama Ventures, one of Coca-Cola’s suppliers of PET plastic and packaging solutions, subsequently converted this material into the PET plastic required to make the first sample Coca-Cola bottle – and the world’s first drinking bottle – made with marine plastics.

[1] Final recycled marine plastic content in the bottle will vary post production, between 20-25%