We have a goal to help collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can we sell worldwide by 2030.

Here in Great Britain, all of our cans and bottles can be recycled, but we know that in reality that doesn’t always happen. That’s why, in 2017, we launched our sustainable packaging strategy in Great Britain to improve the sustainability of all of our packaging and help more of it get collected and recycled.

Here’s what we’re doing:

1. We’re ensuring our packaging is as sustainable as possible

Creating sustainable packaging isn’t just about ensuring it can be recycled. It’s about going to the start of the process and looking at the materials we use and how we use them. Increasing the amount of recycled materials we put into our packaging is an important part of that.

We’re the largest user of recycled plastic in the food and drink industry in Great Britain, and use around 10,000 tonnes of recycled plastic in our bottles every year. We source our recycled plastic from the world’s largest and most advanced plastic bottle reprocessing plant in Lincolnshire.

On average, all of our plastic bottles contain 25 per cent recycled plastic – and we’re on track to get that to at least 50 per cent across all of our brands in 2020, but we don’t want to stop there. Across Western Europe, we’re on a mission to get to 100% recycled plastic in all of our bottles. 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. 

Where we can, we’re going further. Glaceau smartwater bottles will be made from 100 per cent recycled plastic starting from November 2019, for example. That move alone means the equivalent of 3,100 tonnes of recycled plastic, rather than new (or virgin plastic as its also referred) is being used each year.

We also made the switch from plastic shrink-wrap to cardboard to house our multipack cans sold in GB. That means more than 30 million packs sold to consumers each year will no longer be wrapped in plastic. The move is part of an initiative across Western Europe that will see 4,000 tonnes of plastic removed from our supply chain in 2020.

Small changes can also make a big difference; we’re changing Sprite bottles from green to clear so that it will be easier to turn the material back into new bottles, while our bottles are also now lighter than ever.

Since 2007, we’ve decreased the weight of our packaging by 27 per cent, which has reduced the amount of natural resources and energy we use in manufacturing.

Looking for more on the future of our packaging? Here’s three stories you need to read:

2. We’re using our brands to encourage people to recycle

At the moment in Great Britain, around 70 per cent of plastic bottles are recycled, so we know that there’s a lot of work to be done. That’s why we’re using our brands, advertising and partnerships to inspire and encourage people to recycle when they’ve enjoyed one of our drinks.

We’ve run advertising campaigns reminding people to recycle – including Round in CirclesLove Story, Across the Tracks and #CokeDunks – and our Coca-Cola bottles have a ‘Please Recycle Me’ message to help spread awareness.

Return of the Reverse Vending Machines

Now it’s up to us to make sure that message is heard loud and clear, which is why we’re also working to reward people for doing the right thing. Our partnership with Merlin Entertainments, for example, has given people half price entry in exchange for recycling one of our bottles at our special reverse vending machines.

3. We’re championing new ways of recovering our packaging

Alongside promoting recycling, we’re focusing on finding new ways to recover packaging, so that more can be recycled than ever before. After all, the more we get back the more we can turn into new packaging again.

Our ‘Marine Plastic Bottle’ is a great example of that. As part of a pilot project in collaboration with Ioniqa Technologies, Indorama Ventures, and Mares Circulares, we created 300 bottles using 25 per cent recycled marine plastic, retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea and beaches. The pilot was made possible by enhanced recycling technologies, which can take lower-grade plastic – like marine plastic – strip out any impurities and give new life to plastic that would previously have been destined for incineration or landfill.

But we need to recover plastic in the first place if we want to put our innovative recycling technologies to use. Which is why we’re supportive of a well-designed Deposit Return Scheme for plastic bottles and cans here in Great Britain – and our other European markets – to ensure more packaging is recovered.

We work with a number of partners to explore new ways of recovering packaging and reducing litter. These partnerships include Hubbub, Keep Britain Tidy and Keep Scotland Beautiful.

Ultimately, there’s no single quick-fix solution when it comes to increasing recovery and recycling rates, or for reducing litter. Instead, governments, businesses, NGOs and communities need to work together and take action in a number of areas.

For more on how helping people recycle more, check out one of these stories:

Keen to stay up-to-date with all our GB sustainable packaging announcements? Head over to our sustainability homepage for all the updates in one place.