All Coca-Cola Ireland plastic bottles that are 500ml or smaller in size are now being produced with 50 per cent recycled plastic, the soft drinks company has said, while larger bottles have moved to 25 per cent recycled plastic.
The move, made with local bottling partner Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company, comes as consumer goods companies are coming under increasing pressure from customers and environmental groups to lessen plastic pollution.
Coca-Cola said the multimillion investment in recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) would take about 2,000 tonnes of virgin plastic from circulation annually and would help the company create a “closed loop” for plastic packaging.
Tens of millions of plastic bottles are manufactured in Coca-Cola’s Irish operation every year across the Coke range and brands such as Fanta and Sprite. All bottles and cans for these brands are now 100 per cent recyclable, though the company could not offer data on the proportion that actually are recycled.
"We are proud to be making the move to 50 per cent recycled plastic for our on-the-go packs as we look to increase the use of recycled plastics," said Coca-Cola Ireland country manager Petre Sandru.
“We recognise that with our market-leading brands we have a responsibility to help reduce our plastic use and to make it easier for our consumers to recycle,” he said.
“We are on a journey to achieve this. Efforts are ongoing to increase the use of recycled plastic in our packs and we will continue to work with government and local authorities to identify further ways we can help consumers to recycle.”
In a January 2018 online post titled Why a World Without Waste is Possible, Coca-Cola's global chief executive James Quincey outlined how the company, which has since bought Costa Coffee, would make all of its packaging recyclable by 2025.
Mr Quincey also said the company would use at least 50 per cent recycled materials in its packaging and recycle a bottle or can for each one it sells by 2030.
The size of the company's bottling operations has made Coca-Cola a target for activists. The Break Free From Plastic movement last October placed it ahead of rivals PepsiCo and Nestlé as the worst corporate plastic polluter after a "brand audit" of 187,000 pieces of plastic rubbish collected in 239 clean-ups across 42 countries.
As part of its ongoing World Without Waste scheme, Coca-Cola has added “please recycle me” messages to its packaging, while the green Sprite bottle has been replaced with clearer plastic, making it easier to recycle. Coca-Cola’s international water brand Dasani will also be sold in future in aluminium cans and bottles, it announced this week.
Coca-Cola HBC Ireland and Northern Ireland general manager Matthieu Seguin said the Irish operation was ahead of the company's global targets to integrate more recycled material within its supply chain.
“We are committed to accelerating the move to sustainable packaging in Ireland.”