Beverages multinational subsidiary Coca-Cola Southern & East Africa (CCSEA) continues to reduce the weight of its bottles and has committed to recovering the equivalent of 100% of all its packaging by 2025, says CCSEA head of sustainability Dr Casper Durandt.
These commitments are part of Coca-Cola’s global World Without Waste initiative, which will also result in the company using 50% recycled content for its containers by 2030 and ensuring that 100% of its containers are made from recyclable materials by 2025.
These global objectives are supported by local technical design and engineering efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the company’s containers. Local experts are involved in redesigning the thickness of the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers, the shape of the bottle and the plastic caps to reduce their weight.
Coca-Cola has approved seven different PET recycling technologies worldwide. Two major local PET recycling companies make use of Coca-Cola-approved technologies to produce food-grade recycled PET in support of the World Without Waste initiative, he adds.
The closure of PET bottles was changed and 1.5 g removed above and below the closure ledge, while the thickness of the bottle has been reduced from 0.6 mm to 0.3 mm, highlights Coca-Cola Bottling South Africa energy and sustainability manager JP Blumenthal.
The company also conducts detailed tests, including pressure, burst and various stress tests, on the new bottle designs to compare the new designs to existing PET bottle designs in use. This also helps to minimise any changes to customer experience, he adds.
Further, CCSEA is investigating additional recyclability measures, such as perforation strips on shrink-sleeve labels to ease their removal during recycling. Labels and bottle caps, which are usually made from polypropylene plastic, are then sent to suitable recycling plants.
Coca-Cola is using monoethylene glycol, derived from low-quality sugar, to make sustainable PET bottles, such as for its Valpré brand, says Durandt.The use of a
nother organic compound, terephthalic acid – which is also a raw material for the production of PET – is also being investigated to create 100% sustainable PET bottles in future, he adds.
“However, while their eventual use is inevitable, these compounds are not being considered for all packaging currently, owing to costs and their low financial viability. In the current context, lightweighting and bottle design will provide the greatest reduction in environmental impact in the shortest time and at the lowest cost,” says Durandt.
Blumenthal adds that the plans for 2019 include changing the weight of its water bottles, including for its carbonated Bonaqua water brand, as well as changing the closures of the bottles to reduce weight.
“Communicating that lighter bottles represent premium technology can help to change the perceptions of lightweight bottles in South Africa and in our African markets.”
Durandt highlights that, each time a person buys one of the company’s products, it represents an opportunity to communicate with him or her and to encourage recycling.
CCSA is also replacing ageing equipment with more efficient equipment and new processes as the machines reach the ends of their productive lives, says Coca-Cola Bottling Gauteng and inland regional supply chain manager Henry Peek.
CCSA has twelve manufacturing plants and 230 000 Coca-Cola retail coolers in its database. Its Clayville, Midrand, plant produces 35-million cases/y, its Wadeville, Germiston, plant produces 42-million cases/y and its modern Devland, Soweto, plant produces 40-million cases/y, each of which is roughly two-million bottles a day.
Coca-Cola’s involvement in the recycling supply chain is important and the impact of its technical work to support recycling and environment-friendly production is making a significant difference, he concludes.