The Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.Coca-cola embarks on a global initiative to collect and recycle every bottle or can it sells by 2030.The company also aims to recycle all plastic, aluminium and glass packages the company makes.(DAVID BARNES / DAVID.BARNES@AJC.COM AJC File photo)
Photo: David Barnes
Photo: David Barnes

Coca-Cola aims to recycle all of its packages by 2030

Coca-Cola has embarked on a global initiative to collect and recycle every bottle or can it sells by 2030.

The company also aims to modify its packaging to constitute 50% of recyclable material by 2030.

The announcement by the soft-drink company is part of a campaign dubbed “World Without Waste” that aims to recycle all plastic, aluminium and glass packages the company makes. The campaign encourages recycling of packages instead of disposing of them after initial use.

In a statement, Coca-Cola said it will also recycle packaging by other companies as a way of combating environmental pollution.

“We believe in the circular economy, where plastic, glass, and aluminum are reused many times instead of being used once and thrown away” said Coca-Cola Company CEO James Quincey,

Coca-Cola hopes to partner with Non-Governmental Organizations,industry peers and consumers to provide information on what, how and where to recycle used packaging.

Gloria Hardegree, Executive Director of the Georgia Recycling Coalition said citizen education is crucial in reaching recycling goals as envisioned by Coca-Cola. She noted that recycling patterns in residential areas in Georgia are high compared to similar efforts in business locations.

“We must shift our mindsets to see these items[cans, bottles] no longer as “waste” but as valuable materials that conserve both natural and economic resources,” said Hardegree.

A global push to clean oceans

Coca-Cola admits there could be challenges to its 100% recycling goal, but the company’s senior director of Environmental Policy Ben Jordan says the company will approach the effort on a market-by-market basis, taking into consideration the unique challenges of each of its markets.

Coca-Cola’s decision follows a recent United Nations Environmental Programme(UNEP) convention, which discussed pollution and its effects on the environment. UNEP’s Executive Director, Erik Solheim called for collective cefforts between governments, businesses and individuals to reduction marine pollution of all kinds, asking member states to enact policies that prevent “marine litter and micro plastics entering the marine environment.”

During the meeting, some countries including the US did not sign a legally-binding agreement calling for specific, internationally-agreed goals to tackle plastic waste in the oceans. Instead, the nations agreed to gradually work towards long-term reduction of pollution. China which ranks highest in ocean pollution globally also rejected the agreement.

A 2015 study by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) showed that each year, 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean. According to the research, the number is bound to increase twenty times by 2025, if measures are not put in place to curb the influx of plastics and other toxins into oceans. According to UNEP, increased pollution threatens marine life, exhausts landfills and leaves humans and animals vulnerable to harmful chemicals present in plastic waste.

According to company facts, Coca-Cola sells 1.9 billion of its brands daily across the globe. That places tons of aluminium cans, plastic and glass bottles out in recycling centers or buried in land fills.

Laura Hennemann, Director of Marketing at Strategic Materials says the misconception that recycling glass is expensive has resulted in the product filling landfills instead of it being recycled.

She said if waste companies invest in right equipment, they would be able to recover more dollars from recycled glass, making recycling less expensive. Hennemann maintains that education and collaboration between Coca-Cola and stakeholders in the recycling industry could make the company’s recycling efforts easier to attain.

“Being able to leverage the brand and working together with the glass industry, they can make a huge impact,” said Hennemann.

Coca-Cola says a similar initiative by the company in conjunction with recycling companies in Mexico in 2002 resulted in the recycling of 57% of the plastic it produced in 2016.

“If something can be recycled, it should be recycled. So, we want to help people everywhere understand how to do their part,” said Quincey.

The announcement follows similar commitments by other big brands Pepsi-Cola, Unilever and Proctor and Gamble and Mc Donalds to recycle all their packaging by 2030.

In other Coke news:

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