The Coca-Cola Company is phasing out the plastic wrapping around its beverage cans. Instead, the beverage giant will be using a cardboard outer sleeve, much like some of the beer and cider brands do already. The European segment of the multinational company will be the first to launch this change before the end of 2020, cutting out 4000 tonnes of plastic from circulation.
The new cardboard packaging will be used on four-, six- and eight-packs across all brands of the Coca-Cola Company, including Diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite. The removal of the plastic wrapping is part of the company’s mission to minimise plastic use for its products. While plastic is a widely-recycled material, the cardboard sleeves will decompose if left out in the environment.
Plastic wrapping removal will boost paper recycling
The cardboard sleeve that will replace the plastic wrapping will be more readily recyclable, especially in Europe. “We want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to recycle our packaging after they’ve enjoyed our drinks. All our cans are 100% recyclable but we know it is a challenge for consumers to recycle the plastic we use for our multipacks,” says the United Kingdom vice president and general manager of Coca-Cola European Partners, Leendert den Hollander.
“By replacing shrink-wrap with cardboard, which is collected by virtually every household system in the [United Kingdom], we are eliminating a hard-to-recycle material from our supply chain. Changing all our canning lines over the next 18 months is a complex project,” explains den Hollander. If the move is successful, other Coca-Cola segments will follow suit, including Africa.
Cardboard replacements becoming a popular choice
While certain plastics have cost and durability benefits for use in packaging, food and beverage manufacturers are increasingly moving to cardboard replacements. Consumers are the main drivers of these changes. South Africans, in particular, have become very aware of their plastic consumption and the dangers this poses to the environment if the plastic materials are not recycled.
South Africa has high recycling rates, both for plastic and paper. This is because both materials are easily recycled and readily available. Our recycling facilities are better off than the European ones, so a move to cardboard packaging is less motivated by recyclability and more influenced by consumer preference in South Africa. However, cardboard is somewhat biodegradable and with high litter rates in Africa, this packaging material may be a better option for the environment.
The Coca-Cola Company has made a number of other changes in recent years, including increasing the amount of recycled PET (rPET) plastic in its bottles by 50%, using 25% renewable energy in its production facilities and recycling 100% of its plastic packaging by 2030. The company has also donated over R530-million to recycling initiatives across Africa. It is clear that the beverage giant is aiming for a more sustainable future.
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