Coca-Cola is unveiling its first ever sample bottle made using recovered and recycled marine plastics, demonstrating that, one day, even ocean debris could be used in recycled packaging for food or drinks. This sample is also the first ever plastic bottle made using marine litter that has been successfully recycled and reused in food and drink packaging.
About 300 bottles have been produced using 25% recycled marine plastic, retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea and beaches. A small step for now, but the technology behind it has big implications...
Recycling the unrecyclable
The marine plastic bottle has been developed to show the transformational potential of revolutionary ‘enhanced recycling’ technologies, which can recycle previously used plastics of any quality back to the high-quality needed for food or drinks packaging.
Enhanced recycling technologies use innovative processes that break down the components of plastic and strip out impurities in lower-grade recyclables so they can be rebuilt as good as new. This means that lower-grade plastics that were often destined for incineration or landfill can now be given a new life. It also means more materials are available to make recycled content, reducing the amount of virgin PET needed from fossil fuels, and resulting in a lower carbon footprint.
The sample bottle is the result of a partnership between Ioniqa Technologies, Indorama Ventures, Mares Circulares (Circular Seas) and The Coca-Cola Company. Although enhanced recycling is still in its infancy, the partners are producing the sample marine plastic bottle as a proof of concept for what the technology may achieve in time.
In the immediate term, enhanced recycling will be introduced at commercial scale using waste streams from existing recyclers, including previously unrecyclable plastics and lower-quality recyclables. From 2020, Coca-Cola plans to roll out this enhanced recycled content in some of its bottles.
Working towards zero waste
Bruno van Gompel, Technical and Supply Chain Director, Coca-Cola Western Europe, says the potential for the technology is huge: “Enhanced recycling technologies are enormously exciting, not just for us but for industry and society at large. They accelerate the prospect of a closed-loop economy for plastic, which is why we are investing behind them. As these begin to scale, we will see all kinds of used plastics returned, as good as new, not just once but again and again, diverting waste streams from incineration and landfill.”
Tonnis Hooghoudt, CEO of Ioniqa Technologies, the Dutch company that developed the proprietary enhanced recycling technology, says: The impact of enhanced recycling will be felt on a global scale: by working with Coca-Cola and Indorama to produce this bottle, we aim to show what this technology can deliver. Our new plant is now operational and we are bringing this technology to scale. In doing so, we aim to eliminate the concept of single use plastic and plastic waste altogether.”
Innovation through partnership: how we made it happen
Coca-Cola’s breakthrough sample bottle has been designed and developed by bringing together several key partnerships:
- Coastal clean ups: the marine plastic contained in the bottles was collected and recovered by volunteers who participated in 84 beach cleanups in Spain and Portugal and fishermen in 12 ports across the Mediterranean Sea, as part of the Mares Circulares or “Circular Seas” project. Mares Circulares, partially funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation, is a collaboration between the Coca-Cola system in Iberia, Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food & the Environment and three leading non-profit organisations — Chelonia Association, Ecomar Foundation and Vertidos Cero Association.
- Technological innovation: In January 2019, Coca-Cola extended a loan to Ioniqa Technologies in the Netherlands to help scale its proprietary enhanced recycling technology. The marine litter collected through Mares Circulares was recycled by Ioniqa Technologies, using enhanced recycling processes, back into the building blocks needed to make food-grade PET.
- Industry collaboration: Indorama Ventures, one of Coca-Cola’s suppliers of PET plastic and packaging solutions, subsequently converted this material into the PET plastic required to make the first sample Coca-Cola bottle – and the world’s first drinking bottle – made with marine plastics.