Coca-Cola to use 100% R-PET in locally produced bottles in the Netherlands, Norway

Author: Matt Tudball


LONDON (ICIS)--Coca-Cola in western Europe will produce certain bottle types in the Netherland and Norway from 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET), beginning in October 2020, and reduce its use of virgin plastic derived from fossil fuels, the company announced on Monday.

In the Netherlands, all locally produced small bottles, including the Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta brands will be produced from 100% R-PET, with larger bottles to follow in 2021. This does not apply to the Coca-Cola/Fanta Orange 250ml bottles, Aquarius/ Minute Maid 330ml or Sprite 375ml, which are produced in France and Belgium.

Norway will transition to 100% R-PET for all locally produced bottles during the first half of 2021. The switch will not, however, apply to its Fuze Tea and Powerade brands.

The use of deposit return schemes in both countries was mentioned as a key enabler for the move to R-PET.

Joe Franses, vice president of Sustainability at Coca-Cola European Partners said the move, “Marks a vitally important step forwards on our journey to eliminating new virgin oil-based plastic across all our plastic bottles within a decade.

“Crucially, this announcement provides a compelling case for the role that Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) can play in the creation of local circular economies for beverage packaging. Markets with well-designed DRS such as those in Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway not only have high collection rates but also have the capacity to collect a higher grade of material with less contamination,” Frances added.

Helen McGeough, senior analyst and global analyst team lead, Plastic Recycling said, “The ICIS study of Europe R-PET showed the highest collection rates were generated in those countries operating deposit return schemes, and so it is unsurprising that Coca-Cola has focused its activity is such countries."

"Consistent bale supply, in terms of quality as much as quantity, is critical to enable the supply of food grade R-PET to end users such as beverage brands. This announcement illustrates the staunch commitment from Coca-Cola to achieve its goals with regards to recycled content which is a challenge for any beverage brand to achieve given the supply constraints in the European market. It also reflects the strong position the company has established in securing supply of food grade R-PET in a supply constrained market,” McGeough added.

Coca-Cola predicts that this will lead to the elimination of 10,000 tonnes of virgin PET in the Netherlands, and 4,300 tonnes of PET in Norway, and reduce the company’s carbon footprint per country by 21% and 28% respectively.

This move supports Coca-Cola’s goal of eliminating the use of virgin PET in all its bottles within the next decade. This will contribute to the removal of over 200,000 tonnes of new virgin, oil-based PET from its packaging portfolio eah year as Coca-Cola in western Europe transitions to local circular economies for PET packaging.

“The company is distancing itself from new fossil derived resources with an increasing focus on the elimination of virgin PET from its packaging portfolio, one of the first beverage companies to make this pledge, but it does not shift the company away from the use of plastics altogether and we can expect there will be an increasing mix of mechanical and chemical recycled sources, as well as bio based feedstocks in the plastic packaging portfolio,” McGeough added.

Last week, Unilever announced that it will derive 100% of the chemicals used in its cleaning and laundry product formulations from renewable or recycled carbon by 2030, eliminating its use of fossil fuel-derived carbon in the sector. This move, like Coca-Cola's, could point to a possible trend emerging among the world's leading consumer brands to reduce their reliance on fossil-fuel based chemicals.

Click here to see regulatory targets and a list of chemical and mechanical recyclers on the ICIS Circular Economy topic page.