Coca-Cola U-turn could help can and bottle recycling

1st March 2017 | Recycling

More firms are expected to announce bottle recycling return services after Coca-Cola unexpectedly came out in favour of the idea. Pepsi, Nestle, Unilever and M&S have already committed to producing more eco-friendly bottles by using plant-based materials. They are also looking at using less plastic, so a trend in this direction looks likely.

“We expect that any beverage company announcing or taking steps would serve to encourage other companies to follow suit.” This was said by a spokesperson for the UN Environment Programme. Piotr Barczak of the European Environmental Bureau, said, “If Coca-Cola are serious about this then we can expect other companies – particularly smaller companies – to follow suit.”


Rauno Raal, the CEO of the organisation that runs Estonia’s bottle recycling deposit return system had something to add. “Consumers have a fast growing environmental awareness, which means that business is not any more just about revenue and profit.  But also social responsibility and impact. Now that a market leader such as Coca-Cola has come to this understanding, others will follow.”

Coca-Cola’s announcement surprised many, coming after reports that the company was trying to fight proposals for a recycling trial in Scotland. But the firm could be responding to public feeling on the issue and continental trends.

European countries like Estonia – which started a bottle deposit scheme in 2005 – have reported dramatic results. The Baltic state has a population of only 1.3 million people but collected and recycled 3.2 billion “deposit packages” in the last 12 years. Last year, the return rate was 75% for cans and 87% for both PET bottles and one-way glass.

“There is a significant gap between green thinking and acting,” Raal said. “The deposit system’s monetary incentive is the key to decreasing that gap.” Estonian shops sell colas, beers and water for a product price plus deposit. This can be retrieved when the empty bottles or cans are returned in the form of a discount on the next purchase.

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