Bruno Pietracci, President of Coca-Cola Southern & Eastern Africa is passionate about addressing plastic waste.  To commemorate Global Recycling Day on 18 March 2019, he outlines The Coca-Cola Company’s campaign to accelerate the collection and recycling of PET plastic in the region.

“We have shifted our business priorities to ensure value is added to our post-consumer plastic bottles so that they don’t end up as waste - I like to think of it as creating a new currency with plastic – developing our bottles into valuable resources that can drive a green economy.

Along with our bottling partners and other industry partners across Southern & East Africa, we’ll invest over US$38 million (approx. R545 million) over three years to stimulate plastic recycling industries and educate people about what, how and where to recycle.

This is part of our commitment to fully participate in the solution to address the plastic pollution problem and to accelerate the implementation of our global World Without Waste vision, which aims to collect and recycle the equivalent of 100% of the packaging we sell by 2030.

The campaign will fast-track three pillars of our World Without Waste vision: Design; Collect; and Partner. The idea is to design bottles which are easy to recycle and are themselves made partly out of recycled material; create collecting opportunities by stimulating recycling industries; and partnering with others in the value chain to reduce plastic waste.

We’ll be focusing on:

Expanding the PETCO model from South Africa to other African markets

In South Africa, PET plastic recycling is primarily driven through the PET Recycling Company (PETCO), which was established in 2004 with the help of industry players and The Coca-Cola Company. It’s been a phenomenal success with 67% of all PET bottles collected and recycled in SA. This has created over 65,000 new income opportunities in the recycling sector.

Last year, with industry partners, Coca-Cola helped to launch the PETCO model in Kenya. Already, we’re seeing results: 1,800 tonnes of PET bottles were collected and recycled in 2018, compared to 867 tonnes in 2017. The target is to accelerate this to 20,000 tonnes this year, and also to launch the PETCO model in Ethiopia and Uganda.

Increasing recycled PET content in packaging

Locally, we have a goal to ensure that 50% of our primary packaging is made from recycled content by 2030. This will help to reduce the use of new (virgin) PET and help to close the loop on creating a green circular economy.

Currently, all Coca-Cola PET bottles in South Africa contain up to 25% of recycled PET (rPET) and later this year, we aim to launch a new bottle under the Bonaqua brand made entirely out of previously used PET – 100% rPET – no new PET resin is used in the making of this bottle.

Using our brands, assets and packaging to educate consumers

One powerful way to reach recycling goals is through education and marketing. We’ll start by using some of our brands and labels to educate consumers about the small actions they can take to add value to the local recycling industry and increase recycling rates.

For example, later this year, we’ll remove colour packaging (green bottles to start with) from some of our brands. This is because clear or blue PET has more end-use applications by the recycling industry. Collectors also receive more money for clear or blue PET plastic than coloured – so if consumers reach for clear or blue bottles, they are helping collectors earn more money in a day.

Supporting community collection activities and businesses

We’ll be supporting more community clean-up activities as well as empower communities through basic business education to increase waste recycling infrastructure and job creation. Our bottling partner, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa’s (CCBSA) Project Hlewkisa for example already empowers over 200 people and 10 buy back centres.

“We want to be part of the solution, so we’ve created an end-to-end approach to address waste throughout the entire packaging lifecycle. This Global Recycling Day we look forward to a future where we can work in partnership to create an Africa without waste, at the same time as creating jobs and educating people.”

The company recently launched its global 2018 World Without Waste progress report, where you can read more about how Coca-Cola is designing its packaging differently, contributing to collection and recycling efforts, and partnering with stakeholders all around the world.