Coca-Cola Ireland has announced it will move all multi-pack cans to more sustainable cardboard packaging. The move will apply to all products within the multi-pack can range, including Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite. This initiative follows the implementation of new ‘KeelClip’ paper fasteners late last year, which saw smaller multi-packs (four, six and eight cans) transition to a unique cardboard solution.

This is the latest move in Coca-Cola’s sustainable packaging strategy, ‘World Without Waste’, an ambitious environmental program launched in 2018. The company has committed to making its packaging 100% recyclable by 2025 and use 50% recycled material in bottles and cans by the year 2030. Coca-Cola Ireland claims the switch to cardboard will eliminate 500 tonnes of unnecessary shrink-wrap every year. This is particularly important as shrink wrap packaging is often neglected in the recycling process as it is deemed a hassle to reprocess.

According to GlobalData’s 2021 Q1 Europe consumer survey, 30% of consumers consider environmentally friendly packaging material to be a decisive factor in their choice of product. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this figure is highest among Gen Z and millennials at 36% and 32%, respectively. This makes sense when we see that younger generations, particularly Gen Z, have been actively involved in raising awareness around climate change and sustainability. Student-led protests such as Thunberg’s Youth Strike for Climate Movement are a key example of this sentiment. As a result, the youngest generation groups are most likely to be influenced by sustainable reactions to plastic packaging and this is especially noteworthy since young adults are the biggest consumers of soft drinks. As concepts such as eco-design and the circular economy gain traction, consumers will no longer expect to be burdened with recycling a finished beverage, and instead anticipate companies to remove the post-consumer waste problem through innovation.

This is a topical theme as the Government of Turkey announced a ban on almost all imports of plastic waste, while as late as 2016, China took 95% of Ireland’s exported plastic waste before refusing to accept any more waste from EU member states. It is therefore incumbent on legislators and companies based in Ireland to devise innovative ways to responsibly deal with plastic waste. The most ideal method is a circular approach that seeks to ‘design out’ unnecessary plastic and thereby reduce the burden on landfill sites. The actions of Coca-Cola will establish a first mover advantage that aims to retain brand recognition and perceptions of social responsibility.

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