Packaging is essential to our business and for people to be able to enjoy our drinks. We know that packaging accounts for around half of our carbon footprint as a business – so to make a difference we always look to make it as sustainable as possible. Here’s how:

Reducing the amount of material in our bottles and cans

Since 2007 we’ve decreased the weight of our packaging by 27%. Lowering the amount of material our packaging uses naturally lowers the quantity of natural resources and energy we need to manufacture it. We’ve seen encouraging results since 2007, but we’re not done yet. Our plan is to reduce the amount of material in our packaging by 25% by 2020, from where we started in 2007.

Our new Abbey Well twist bottles are a good example of what this means in practice. Not only are these bottles 100% recyclable, the new design uses up to 32% less plastic than previous bottles. This light new bottle design means the manufacturing, delivery and even the recycling process of the bottle all need less energy.

Find out more about the innovative Abbey Well twist bottle

Making all our drinks packaging 100% recyclable

Coca-Cola Low Sugar Alternatives

It’s not just our Abbey Well bottles that are 100% recyclable – all of our drinks packaging is.
We’ve spent many years working behind the scenes to ensure all our drinks packaging meets the right requirements to be fully recyclable.

Take our bottles. We make sure the type of glue we use to stick on the labels, and even the colour of PET plastic we use, work seamlessly within the recycling and reprocessing systems here in Great Britain, so that every bottle and can we sell can be recycled and reused.

See the impact of recycling our packaging on the Coca-Cola Recyclometer

Using recycled and renewable materials

As well as making our packaging completely recyclable and cutting down the amount of material going into it, we’re working to make the materials we use more sustainable.

We’re now using a higher percentage of recycled and renewable materials in our drinks packaging than ever before – with 130,645 tonnes of recycled material used in 2015 alone. On average our bottles contain around 25% recycled plastic, our aluminium cans around 42% recycled aluminium and there’s 47% recycled glass in our glass bottles, but we still want to do more.

We’ve got an ambition to use 40% renewable or recycled materials in our packaging by 2020, but to do that we need everyone’s help. The more bottles and cans we all give back through recycling, the more recycled plastic and aluminium we can make into new bottles.

Using recycled material to create our packaging has a real environmental impact. It takes 95% less energy to produce recycled aluminium cans than virgin aluminium cans (cans made of completely new material), and 60% less energy to manufacture recycled PET plastic bottles compared to virgin plastic. By using more recycled materials, we use less energy in the manufacturing process and keep the circular economy spinning.

Find out what the circular economy is, and why it matters

Making packaging from plants

Refreshingly Honest

Yes, really. Packaging made from plants.

Alongside the increase in using recycled materials, we’ve also made strides in using packaging made from renewable sources which have a lower carbon footprint.

We introduced PlantBottle™ packaging back in 2009 – the first-ever fully recyclable PET plastic bottle made partially from plants. Today, billions of PlantBottle™ bottles have been sold world-wide, and PlantBottle™ accounts for up to 30% of our plastic packaging, helping us to cut our reliance on petroleum used in virgin plastic.

We haven’t kept a good thing to ourselves either – we’ve licensed our PlantBottle™ technology to other companies who are using it in their products too, like Heinz and Ford.

You can find PlantBottle™ in Glaceau Smartwater packaging and in our new organic bottled herbal tea drink, Honest. 

Get an honest look at Honest herbal tea, a PlantBottle™ success story

Researching attitudes and behaviours towards litter

We’re proud to say that in 2015, in all our GB manufacturing sites we sent zero waste to landfill. But after manufacturing and distributing our drinks, what happens once our packaging has been used is out of our hands.
There are many missed opportunities to recycle our packaging, and littering remains an ugly problem. We know we still have a responsibility for our packaging after it’s distributed. We want it to come back to us through recycling so that we can use the materials again.

"By understanding attitudes towards litter, we can adapt our packaging to make it far simpler to recycle."

For many years we’ve been a partner of organisations such as Keep Britain Tidy (a leading UK-based environmental charity), supporting them through their work in campaigning and litter clean-ups. In 2016 a piece of joint research was undertaken between Coca-Cola European Partners (the part of Coca-Cola that makes our bottles) and Keep Britain Tidy. The research looked into the littering behaviour of young adults aged 16-25 and unearthed some of the key factors that stop younger people from recycling. From these insights we put together potential solutions, which range from short-term educational campaigns, to making packaging easier to recycle.

Take a look at the key findings of our research partnership with Keep Britain Tidy

Raising Awareness

Hubbub Bin

Another way to fight litter is to actively encourage recycling – something we’ve achieved in a variety of ways. Here are just a few:

  • Smarter labelling
    Changes to design and labelling allow us to encourage recycling. For example, a highly visible ‘Recycle Me’ callout on the Abbey Well twist bottle label, alongside its twistable, easy-to-dispose-of design, means the bottle doesn’t just emphasise the recycling message, it’s physically even easier to recycle.

    Meet the Abbey Well twist bottle

  • Neat Streets with Hubbub
    Hubbub is an innovative social enterprise communicating sustainability issues in creative, simple ways all across Great Britain. We supported them to create Neat Streets – a project that looked to clean up the streets, one street at a time. Hubbub observed public attitudes to litter on streets in major cities and acted imaginatively on the major issues causing waste, grabbing people’s attention and surprising people as they went about their day with a fresh take on all things to do with litter.

    Hubbub’s co-founder talks about Neat Streets

  • Talking rubbish on Do It Day
    Instead of telling people about litter, we let the rubbish do the talking itself. On Do It Day –where brands come together with creatives to come up with imaginative marketing solutions to sustainability issues – and with the help of Hubbub, we set out to raise awareness of the problem of littering in a different way. We created a special coffee cup which could call out to passers-by to remind them to always use bins and recycle wherever possible. Sometimes talking rubbish has its benefits!

    Discover what happened on Do It Day

Keeping events clean (and educational)

During our sampling events across the year, we hand out thousands of free samples. We don’t want these bottles and cans to become litter or general waste – we want them to be recycled.

Our teams of brand ambassadors work to make sure all of our sampling events are kept clean, both during and after. To do this we’ve worked with Every Can Counts, a charity that aims to get people to do the right thing and recycle their empty drinks cans.

During major stops on our popular Christmas Truck Tour over the past 3 years, the Every Can Counts team has helped to ensure that everything gets recycled. Not only do their team set up impossible-to-miss recycling bins around the event, they actively check bins outside the event area to reclaim any recyclable cans found in the general waste. On top of this, they get chatty. As fans queue to see the Truck, the team will talk to them, keep them entertained and explain why recycling matters and why we want our used cans and bottles back!

Keeping events clean and tidy is important, but promoting the value of recycling to our consumers is crucial.