Coca-Cola estimates 37% of its bottles, cans sent to market currently recovered, aims to recover 50% of all bottles, cans used annually by 2015; company helping to grow, improve recycling programs in developing markets, educate consumers to boost recovery

Andrew Rogers

Andrew Rogers

Nov 12, 2012 – The Coca-Cola Co.

ATLANTA , November 12, 2012 (press release) – Industry Intelligence's Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from The Coca-Cola Co.'s 2011/2012 GRI Report, published on Nov. 7, 2012.

Sustainable Packaging

Investing in recycling programs

Goal: By 2015, recover 50 percent of the equivalent bottles and cans used annually.1

Progress: In progress. We currently estimate that 37 percent of the equivalent bottles and cans we send to market are recovered.

If we are serious about maximizing the value of the packaging material we put into the market, recovering our beverage containers for reuse is essential.

Our beverage containers are recovered through multiple channels: the Coca-Cola system directly, industry-financed collection organizations, community-funded recycling programs, government mandated programs and informal collectors worldwide.

To date, we have only been able to report recovery for a limited number of markets—of those markets, about 37 percent of the equivalent bottles and cans sent to market are recovered. Calculating a comprehensive global recycling rate for any package is a complex undertaking given that many countries, especially in developing and emerging markets, do not collect this data, and there is no practical mechanism for tracking the collection of packaging by the millions of informal collectors that operate in every market in which we distribute our products.

We have become more acutely aware of this challenge as we work to advance recovery in markets worldwide. We are working to identify independently verified recovery and recycling data and, as it becomes available, add this information to our global reporting. Where reliable data is not available, we will be working with stakeholders to identify actual recycling rates.

In addition to improving tracking of recycling, through our Coca-Cola Foundation and other means, we are helping to expand and improve community recycling programs while supporting the inclusion of informal collectors as improved waste management practices are adopted in developing markets. Recovery and recycling are strongly impacted by local issues, with different circumstances in every area. We recognize that collaboration is critical to advancing our vision faster, so we work closely with governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), local communities and our industry partners to create stewardship systems that make sense for the markets they serve, and, whenever possible, create jobs. In developing markets, we work with government and industry to help informal collection systems become formal recovery systems that provide sustainable jobs. In developed markets, we support approaches that include comprehensive recovery of materials through industry recovery organizations and other means.

In 2011, we hosted a meeting of the Global Alliance for Recycling and Sustainable Development in Brazil, which brought together industry groups from Brazil, South Africa, Thailand and other nations to collaborate on advancing collection systems in developing markets.

In 2011, we also continued our work with the Regional Initiative for Inclusive Recycling for Latin America, an effort to transform the recycling market in Latin America by improving the socioeconomic status of recyclers and their families; enhancing private sector roles so that recycling cooperatives thrive in a competitive market; and supporting public policy so that recycling cooperatives become part of local waste management systems. The partnership includes the Inter-American Development Bank and Fundación AVINA.

Educating consumers about recycling is also an important part of increasing recycling rates. In 2011, our bottler in Israel launched a campaign to promote recycling that included online advertising, radio coverage, outreach on Facebook and, at its center, “pop-up stores” in central Tel Aviv and elsewhere that sold handbags, T-shirts, hats and other items made from recycled materials, some designed by local artists and fashion designers. The campaign also encouraged consumers to recycle their PET plastic bottles at some 10,000 distinctive recycling receptacles across the country.

In North America, working with NASCAR at race tracks across the United States, we helped divert more than 11.5 million beverage containers from landfills and into recycling streams during the 2010 and 2011 race seasons.

Read more about our support of community recycling programs around the world in the Charitable Contributions of this report.

Combating marine litter with Ocean Conservancy
When used packaging is not disposed of properly, it too often ends up as trash littering our communities and waterways. Marine litter, though its causes and effects are not fully understood, is a matter of great concern to scientists, to conservationists—and to us. Our packaging is among the debris that can be found improperly disposed of on shorelines around the world, so we have an obligation to help address marine litter in earnest.

We work with a number of organizations, including Ocean Conservancy and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), to better understand the causes of marine debris. The scientists at these organizations and others believe marine litter is not a problem that is easily characterized or likely to be solved in the near future.
However, we are working with them to gather science-based information and to engage other companies in a collective effort to find sustainable ways to mitigate marine litter.

In 2011, working with Ocean Conservancy, we helped launch the Trash Free Seas Alliance, a cooperative group of businesses, NGOs, scientific institutions and community groups that share the common goal of eliminating ocean trash. By bringing such diverse groups together, we hope to accelerate action among the varied stakeholders who must work together to restore the world’s seas.

One of the first accomplishments of the Trash Free Seas Alliance was development of a proposal accepted by NCEAS to support a working group on marine debris. NCEAS is one of the foremost ecological think tanks in the world. This working group will bring together a group of leading ecologists, oceanographers, social scientists, industry market experts, behavioral economists and polymer scientists to evaluate existing data and published information as well as conduct integrative modeling to significantly advance the scientific understanding of marine debris globally.

We have also partnered with Ocean Conservancy for the past 16 years as a sponsor of the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). The ICC is the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean health. Coca-Cola system associates join the more than 9 million volunteers to clean up the world’s waterways during this annual event.

To view the full report, click here.

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