Coke adds life in eco-friendly bottles

In a move to avoid energy wastage, it is producing recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles made partially from plants.

The packaging, with the trademark name PlantBottle™, comprises 30% of plant material and has a lighter footprint on the environment because it does not use nonrenewable resources.

By the end of 2010, more than 2.5-billion PlantBottle™ packages had been produced. Using normal plastic would have used about 60000 barrels of oil and created about 30000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide, said Zipporah Maubane, Coca-Cola’s South African head of sustainability communications.

“This is our way of helping consumers to reduce their carbon footprint by providing them with an option to purchase a bottled beverage made from 30% plant material. We are working towards making our facility the greenest water-bottling plant in all of Africa,” said Maubane.

The plant packaging looks, feels and functions just like traditional PET. It is recyclable and the company is establishing community recycling programmes to benefit from it.

The packaging is used at its new Heidelberg bottling facility in Gauteng, where more than R400-million has been invested in solar panels, waste-recycling systems, rainwater harvesting and internal water recycling technology.

Coca-Cola created a sustainability framework called Live for a Difference in 2004 that set ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions from its manufacturing operations by 2015.

“We are well on our way to achieving these targets,” Maubane said. “By the end of 2010 our greenhouse-gas intensity per litre of product had improved by 14% over that of 2004 and we had improved the energy efficiency of our new cooling equipment by 40% compared to 2000 levels.”

After a global assessment of Coca-Cola’s carbon emissions, the company realised the largest component of its climate footprint was found in the roughly 10-million units of refrigeration equipment used to keep beverages cold. It then invested more than $60-million in research and development to advance the use of climate-friendly cooling technologies.

Through research with bottling partners and plant managers worldwide, the company developed 10 high-return, low-risk energy best practices for bottling partners to implement by 2012.

A global campaign site was created where they could register their progress.

“We are also powering our fleet of vehicles with a mix of efficient fuels – including electricity, natural gas, diesel-electric hybrids and biodiesel as well as conventional fuels – and we are exploring new options as they become available,” Maubane said.

The Greening judges praised the company’s ongoing mission to avoid energy wastage and meet the ambitious targets it has set itself to increase energy efficiency. “It is a strong and commendable entry.”

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