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Advertorial: in association with Coca Cola Europacific Partners

A drinks industry for net zero

On our journey we've made progress – and learned many lessons.

By Jim Fox

The environmental impact of plastics rocketed up the public and political agenda following David Attenborough’s 2017 TV series Blue Planet II, prompting action from individuals, businesses and government to take better care of the planet.

Coca-Cola has a public commitment to reach net zero carbon by 2040. Central to that is our ability to control and reduce the impact of packaging, which is about 40 per cent of our carbon footprint.

Our factories are working full-time on reducing the use of plastics and moving to net zero. All of our investment to justify new production lines depends on whether it furthers our achievement of the net-zero goal.

For example, all our mechanical handling equipment is moving towards electric, and we have used 100 per cent renewable electricity for more than ten years.

Our site at Morpeth is the company’s first in Great Britain to be certified as carbon-neutral. We are taking the lessons from how we achieved that and applying them to our factories in Wakefield, Sidcup, Edmonton and East Kilbride. We’re also working with suppliers to help them work towards these goals with us.

We have already made significant progress, most recently with introducing plastic caps that stay attached to the bottle to reduce litter and make the bottles easier to recycle.

In responding to concerns about plastic pollution, we removed plastic straws and introduced paper straws over two years ago to minimise our products’ impact on the environment.

Our entire range of plastic bottles is already recyclable, and all 500ml and smaller bottles sold in the UK are made from 100 per cent recycled plastic (excluding caps and labels).

Currently, the biggest barrier is the availability of high quality, recycled plastic. We are trying to work upstream to make sure that we get a system that delivers on this and that creates circularity in the use of resources in order to be truly sustainable.

One of the key things we would like to see for Great Britain is a well-designed deposit return scheme (DRS), where customers can return their used bottles and get money back. We remain fully supportive of a well-designed DRS scheme.

The evidence from Europe shows that this can be really effective in reducing litter and providing resources that can be reused and recycled, whether that means rebottling or processing it into other high-value materials, which can have a significant impact in reducing carbon emissions.

We were also the first large multinational company to come out in support of Scotland’s decision to develop a deposit return scheme.

The journey since then has been more complex, but there are important lessons to learn for the rest of Great Britain. We will now work closely with industry groups to ensure we make good progress towards schemes going live in England, Scotland and Wales in October 2025.

However, a deposit return scheme is never going to solve all the packaging problems our industry faces. We’re also looking to the future and trailing things such as refillable glass, returnable glass, and refillable PET plastics in different marketplaces across Europe.

For example, we’re trialling the delivery and collection of refillable Coke Zero Sugar bottles to and from customers’ doorsteps with online grocery Milk & More. Customers will be able to order one-litre glass bottles of Coke Zero for delivery, which can be left on their doorstep for collection once emptied and rinsed.

There will be different ways forward, and we are always keen to be at the forefront of such initiatives. The journey to net zero is a long one. We are proud of the progress we have made and continue to make, including a 47 per cent reduction in our carbon footprint since 2010.

The scale of change that we need to make as an industry and a society will take years. The lessons we have learned from our own journey and in our work to introduce a deposit return scheme can help take those next steps together with government, our customers, and our suppliers.

This advertorial first appeared in a Party Policy special Spotlight print issue. Read it here.

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