Uwe Kleinert, Head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Coca-Cola GmbH explains how reusable packaging remains core to Coca-Cola Germany’s portfolio, and its vision for a World Without Waste, 90 years since operations began.
For years there has been a rumor in the media that Coca-Cola Germany is becoming increasingly less involved in filling and offering reusable bottles. However, the truth is that reusable packaging is and remains an important part of our range. By creating the first small 200 ml Coca-Cola glass bottle 90 years ago, the company founded the reusable bottle deposit system for soft drinks in Germany. Coca-Cola also developed the first reusable plastic bottle, actually in Germany, and introduced it to the German market as well. Currently, alongside the 1 liter PET reusable bottle, we also have reusable glass bottles in 200ml, 250ml, 330ml, 500ml, 700ml and 750ml sizes. If you count all of our beverages in all of their various sizes, we offer 64 products in reusable packaging.
Coca-Cola’s share of reusable products is significantly higher than the industry average
Today we are the largest provider of soft drinks in reusable packaging in Germany. In the last three years alone, Coca-Cola European Partners Deutschland GmbH (CCEP DE) has invested over €200 million in the renewal and expansion of our reusable bottle pool and in new reusable crates. In 2018, our volume share of reusable bottles was still 39.9 percent. This places Coca-Cola clearly higher than the industry average for soft drinks.
This year, we will also be bringing two new production lines for reusable products online. With the 1.0 liter glass bottle for Coca-Cola Classic and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, we are currently introducing a new reusable bottle to the German market.
We believe in a mixture of single use and reusable packaging
Consumers make pragmatic purchase decisions depending on life circumstances and the particular occasion. That is why we rely on a mixture of single use deposit bottles and reusable packaging in a variety of sizes. This way we can offer our consumers a selection – not only in terms of our products, but also in terms of packaging.
From an ecological perspective, we take all of the impacts of our packaging into consideration across the entire life cycle of the product. Building on that principle, we would like to continually improve all ecological aspects of all of our packaging, among other processes. For this reason, we have previously optimized both our reusable and single use bottles by, for example, making them lighter or using more recycled material in the production of single use packaging. This also applies to our bottles made of PET plastic.
99.9 percent of our products are required to be processed through the deposit system. Our goal: A circular economy
Plastic is an important raw material but we need to handle it in the right way. Used plastics must not become waste. They belong back in the circular economy. Our goal is a world without waste, not a world without plastic. We want to ensure that none of our packaging ends up in the ocean or the countryside. For this reason, we have set ourselves the goal of globally ensuring by 2030 that for every piece of packaging brought to market, one piece is recycled. Our CEO, James Quincey, highlighted this with the initiative “A World without Waste” at the Global Economic Forum 2018.
In Germany, the material cycle is already nearly closed thanks to the deposit system: all of our PET, glass, tin and aluminum packaging is recyclable. Of this, 99.9 percent of all packages are sold with deposit. The packaging comes back via the deposit system and is refilled (reusable) or recycled (single use).
In order to completely close the circle of materials, we also utilize old material from used PET soft drinks bottles in the production of new soft drinks bottles. It is our goal to increase the average proportion of recycled PET in all of our single use bottles from the current 29% to 50% by 2025.
(this article first appeared in Jewish Voice in April 2019)