Too much packaging is sent to landfill in this country. That’s why at Coca-Cola Enterprises we are committed to transforming recycling in the UK.
One key step in this transformation is the £15m, 10-year joint venture with ECO Plastics we announced earlier this year. Our facility will increase to more than 75,000 tonnes of high-quality, food-grade recycled PET when it is fully operational more than doubling the amount currently produced in the whole of Great Britain. It’s a first for the drinks sector in this country and forms an integral part of CCE’s ongoing goal to ‘grow more, using less’.
This focus will help us achieve our plan to reduce carbon emissions by 15% by 2020 (on 2007 baseline). And central to that ambition are our efforts to minimise the environmental impact of our packaging through lightweighting programmes, ensuring packs are 100% recyclable, and incorporating 25% recycled material in our PET bottles by 2012.
Companies such as ours must demonstrate leadership with regards to packaging shoppers expect trusted brands to behave that way, as do our customers in the trade. But our research shows that consumers find recycling confusing and that environmental measures are often poorly communicated.
Recycling needs to make people feel good about doing the right thing. Such thinking underpinned a successful promotion that we ran with Asda earlier this year to encourage shoppers to recycle at home.
We must also play a positive role in addressing other obvious recycling challenges. For instance: our ECO Plastics joint venture will help ensure that the PET consumers do recycle is no longer exported for reprocessing.
CCE can’t address all these issues on our own. That’s why we are eagerly awaiting Defra’s Waste Review expected next week which will set out some of the ways this administration plans to create a ‘zero waste economy’ that will underpin its efforts to be the greenest government ever. We hope the review will set out how the government plans to work with local authorities and the waste industry to improve the quantity and quality of the materials that ultimately end up in reprocessing plants such as the one we are building with ECO Plastics.
We believe that the reprocessing industry and packaging producers need to invest and work together to ensure packaging is returned again and again in a closed loop. But government can do more to encourage better recycling habits in this country and we would support any practical measures in the Waste Review that would help to spread best practice, remove incentives for valuable waste to be exported and boost the quantity and quality of the material reaching reprocessors.
We also want to see industry-led intervention. Our industry must do more to ensure that what it puts on the market (particularly plastic packaging) can be recycled, perhaps through some form of Responsibility Deal on recyclability.
Defra’s Waste Review is an important milestone for all of us looking to transform recycling. But it will challenge some in the industry to be more proactive in how they respond to such issues.
I would argue that CCE has already shown genuine leadership, not least around our approach to packaging. It’s time others stepped up to the plate.
Simon Baldry is MD at Coca-Cola Enterprises