In 2000, American multinational corporation The Coca-Cola Company publicly reported its 2020 sustainability goals. Along with its 225 bottling partners in over 200 countries and territories, the beverage company set ambitious goals to drive system-wide change beyond small operational improvements. One of these ambitious goals was set out in a packaging sustainability pledge.

However, this year the company was found to be the most common source of packaging pollution on UK beaches, according to research by Surfers Against Sewage (SAS). Packaging Gateway takes a look back at the Coca-Cola packaging sustainability effort with a focus on the past year.

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Recycle and reuse goal

The main packaging sustainability goal Coca-Cola aimed to achieve was to work with its partners to recover and recycle the equivalent of 75% of the bottles and cans they introduce into developed markets. Coca-Cola reported achieving a 63%, 61% and 59% recover and recycle rate in 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively.

However, in 2016 and 2017, Coca-Cola failed to progress beyond the 59% recover and recycle rate. Since then, the company’s efforts have improved – reaching 56% in 2018. Coca-Cola said it aims to achieve a 100% reuse and recycle rate by 2030.


Plastic waste solutions

In January 2018, Coca-Cola established three fundamental goals to reduce the impact of packaging waste – design, collect and partner – and set out what it had achieved in its end of year results.

Its design goal was to make all packaging 100% recyclable globally by 2025 and use at least 50% recycled materials in packaging by 2030. It reported that 88% of The Coca-Cola Company’s consumer packaging is recyclable and 30% of recycled material was used in its packaging globally.

Coca-Cola set out to collect and recycle a bottle or can for each one sold by 2030 and reported that 58% of the equivalent bottles and cans introduced by the company to the market were refilled, collected or recycled.

Its partner goal to bring people together to support a healthy, debris-free environment saw the company commit $15m to invest in Circulate Capital, an investment management firm dedicated to incubating and financing companies and infrastructure that prevent the flow of plastic waste into the world’s oceans.


What next for Coca-Cola packaging sustainability?

With the release of its 2019 sustainability report pending, the company’s latest and biggest public effort came in 2018 with the launch of World Without Waste, a system-wide effort to design more recyclable packaging, increase collection and partner with communities, NGO and competitors to reduce packaging waste.

Last month, Coca-Cola announced that it will increase the use of recycled plastic in Australia. In addition to this, Coca-Cola Amatil Australia announced, in January this year, it would distribute biodegradable Forest Stewardship Council accredited recyclable paper straws, ending its distribution of single-use plastic straws and stirrers.