Coca-Cola unveils all-new bottles — sort of

Coca-Cola unveils all-new bottles — sort of - Environment - News

Coca-Cola’s Steps Towards a More Sustainable Future: Transitioning to 100% Recycled Plastic Bottles

Coca-Cola, the world-renowned beverage company, is making strides in its long-term initiative to become more environmentally friendly by introducing 100% recycled plastic bottles for all versions of Coca-Cola (zero sugar, diet, original, etc.) in the US market. This marks an essential milestone as the company works towards achieving its 2030 goal of producing half of its portfolio from recycled material.

The issue of plastic pollution, particularly from single-use packaging, remains a significant challenge, with companies continuing to produce record amounts despite efforts to be more sustainable. Plastic, primarily made from polymers derived from non-renewable fossil fuels, poses a serious concern due to its problematic environmental impact.

Kurt Ritter, Vice President of Coke’s sustainability efforts in North America, shared with the media that consumers are increasingly seeking more eco-friendly packaging solutions. He stated, “As a large global beverage company, we recognize our responsibility to innovate and lead.”

Coca-Cola first introduced recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) in the US market with Dasani in selected states in 2021, followed by a nationwide rollout in 2022. In another significant move, the company removed the green PET additive from Sprite bottles in 2023, leading to a change from the iconic green packaging to clear bottles.

Coca-Cola estimates that these changes will help reduce approximately 83 million pounds of plastic used in their US supply chain, equivalent to two billion bottles. Ritter described these efforts as “significant,” emphasizing the importance of transitioning towards more sustainable packaging solutions.

Customers may notice a new label signaling this change, although the bottle itself will not undergo any significant visual or tactile alterations. However, it is important to note that the labels and caps are not made entirely from 100% recycled plastic.

With increasing consumer awareness and demand for eco-friendly practices, several companies have started implementing more sustainable packaging. Nevertheless, it is too early to determine whether Coca-Cola’s new bottles are resulting in a measurable sales increase. The company reported a 1% decrease in North American volume during their most recent earnings, which could be attributed to weakened demand for sports drinks and coffee.

By the end of summer, Coca-Cola aims to complete the nationwide rollout. Additionally, its Smartwater brand plans to introduce bottles made from 100% recycled plastic in New York and California later this year.

Despite these initiatives, Coca-Cola was identified as the world’s top plastic polluter for the sixth consecutive year in 2023 by environmental organization Break Free from Plastic. The non-profit audited over 537,000 pieces of plastic waste across 40 countries and found that Coca-Cola bottles were the most common discarded item, often in public spaces such as parks and beaches.

Break Free from Plastic viewed these changes as the “bare minimum” Coca-Cola could do to address plastic pollution. Emma Priestland, Global Corporate Campaigns Coordinator of Break Free from Plastic, emphasized the need for more substantial actions: “Plastic recycling will never resolve the plastic pollution crisis – plastic was not designed to be recycled indefinitely. Coke already knows that genuine solutions involve reusable glass bottles and scalable reuse systems. Coca-Cola must urgently and dramatically decrease its dependence on plastic – full stop.”