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Momentum grows to solve the world’s plastic waste problem

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Tshidi Ramogase, Chief Public Affairs, Communication and Sustainability Officer, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa

Today as people all over the globe gather for World Cleanup Day, there is compelling reason to believe that an end to the plastic waste problem is in sight. The next round of negotiations towards a UN treaty based on legally-binding global rules and comprehensive circular economy measures to deal with plastic waste will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, in November.

Progress to date has been encouraging, and at the last round of discussions in Paris, most member states showed strong support for an ambitious treaty. Importantly, the development of a legally binding treaty is supported by a Business Coalition convened by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and WWF, in collaboration with aligned businesses, including The Coca-Cola Company, and supported by NGO partners.

The coalition sees the treaty as the single most important opportunity to accelerate progress towards a circular economy in which plastic never becomes waste or pollution, and the value of products and materials is retained in the economy.

At Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA), our commitment is to invest in our planet and our packaging, to help make the world’s packaging problem a thing of the past, working in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company in support of its sustainable packaging initiative called World Without Waste, which it launched in 2018.

We are re-imagining our packaging to make it better for our planet and our business. We’re working to design better bottles because packaging shouldn’t harm our world, and if someone wants to recycle one of our packages, they should be able to.

Through various design innovations, we are reducing the amount of plastic in our bottles, increasing the recycled content in our bottles and increasing their ease of recyclability.

In South Africa, our 500ml Bonaqua bottles are made out of 100% recycled PET (rPET).

Other recent highlights include the move to clear Sprite PET in ten markets (South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Uganda, Zambia and Malawi) which makes it much easier to recycle and has greater value as a recyclable material. CCBA also started using returnable 2L PET in South Africa with the view to roll this out to other markets.

A second pillar of our strategy is collection. The Coca-Cola Company and all its bottling partners are leading the industry to help collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one we sell by 2030. We’re working to bring people together to help us collect and recycle 100% of our packaging.

Regardless of where it comes from, we want every package to have more than one life.

Our approach is a voluntary collection and recycling model funded by industry through a levy on resin, the material used to make PET plastic.

Following a highly successful rollout in South Africa, we have extended this model, which is based on the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility, to three additional markets, with plans for further rollout in our markets.

Finally, we are partnering with communities and industry to clean up existing packaging. We’re bringing people together through programmes like beach and river cleanups and other ongoing local activities. To encourage more people to recycle more often, we’re investing to help people understand what to recycle, how to recycle, and where to recycle. We also work with local communities, NGOs, our competitors, and our critics to highlight this critical issue.

We are creating and supporting waste collection and recycling systems across our footprint where they didn’t exist previously and improving collection and recycling rates where systems do exist.

In Mozambique, CCBA has provided training to more than 3,000 women on the safe and efficient collection and sorting of plastic waste, empowering them to earn an income in the plastic waste circular economy.

In Ethiopia, 263 women who made a living collecting firewood in and around Entoto Mountain were left without work when the Entoto Park opened. CCBA supported them to start PET collection in the park and its vicinity, sorting and providing it to recyclers. They now collect about 10 tonnes a month. They were also trained to weave baskets from recycled plastic as an additional income stream.

A model collection centre has been established in Ambo city, near CCBA subsidiary Ambo Mineral Water SC, creating employment for 13 women and two men.

Through the Extended Producer Responsibility model and initiatives like these, CCBA has made solid progress towards its goal of a 100% recycling rate.

In addition, to help stimulate the development of a circular economy for plastic waste, we are bringing the cost down and availability up for recycled materials.

We’re working toward these solutions to create a circular economy that benefits society and works for our business.

We’ve set ambitious goals for our business, to take responsibility for our packaging across its lifecycle and reduce ocean pollution.

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