Last week, Therese Gearhart stood alongside South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs Ms. Edna Molewa to unveil a new state of the art ‘bottle-to-bottle’ facility. This facility, Mpact Polymers, will produce raw material for recycled PET (rPET), which will be used in the manufacturing of new PET bottles to package Coca-Cola South Africa’s beverages.  

Mpact Polymers is the first in Africa to meet The Coca-Cola Company’s full certification for PET bottles to package our company’s soft drinks. Speaking at the event, Therese said “Our partnership with government and Mpact Polymers is another example of our commitment to growing South Africa’s economy while reducing the carbon footprint of our drink in consumers’ hands, and puts us one step closer towards our goal of zero-waste to landfill sites”.

In Minister Molewa’s speech, she called out Coca-Cola and encouraged other businesses to follow in Coca-Cola’s footsteps. “It is government’s role to create a conducive environment for the private sector to create jobs,” Ms Molewa said. “It is important that this facility is launched loudly and noisily and I would like other multinational companies to emulate Coca-Cola in driving business initiatives that create jobs and make South Africa greener. 

Mpact Polymers will save approximately 1.1 billion bottles from going to landfill sites each year and CO2 emissions will be reduced by approximately 53,000 tonnes each year. Echoing Minister Molewa’s remarks, Mpact Group CEO Bruce Strong said “We realise the importance of such partnerships between the public and private sectors - while meeting our business objectives. This is inclusive job-rich growth. This is sustainable development. The support our industry partners and local and national government has been phenomenal.”

Coca-Cola South Africa’s bottling partner ABI is also heavily involved in the project. “As an anchor customer for the rPET products which will be processed by this plant and through our partnership with Mpact, recycled PET has become a reality in ABI’s value chain. We are very proud of this milestone and we are honoured to have been able to share the journey with Mpact, Coca-Cola, PETCO, and our government stakeholders in bringing this project to life," adds ABI MD, Velaphi Ratshefola. 

The opening of Mpact Polymers comes at a time when collection and recycling of plastic PET bottles is on the rise in South Africa. According to the CEO of industry body PETCO, post-consumer PET collection and recycling grew from 16% in 2004 to 52% in 2015. 

Traditional media covered the event and Coca-Cola South Africa’s CIC worked with PAC to implement live streaming on Twitter during the event, resulting in #mpact trending on social media that day. 

With the support of Coca-Cola South Africa, the bottling system and industry body PETCO, the opening of this new R350 million (USD 22.7 mill) recycled PET plant brings South Africa a step closer to closing the loop in bottle-grade recycling.