The Coca-Cola Co. unveiled its first-ever sample bottles made using recovered and recycled marine plastics, demonstrating that, one day, even ocean debris could be used in recycled packaging for food or drinks.
Through a partnership between Ioniqa Technologies, Indorama Ventures, Mares Circulares (Circular Seas) and The Coca-Cola Co., about 300 sample bottles were made using up to 25 percent recycled marine plastic retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea and beaches. The bottles were designed and developed to show the transformational potential of revolutionary enhanced recycling technologies, which can recycle previously used plastics of any quality back to high-quality plastic that can be used for food or beverage packaging. The sample bottle is the first-ever plastic bottle made using marine plastic that has been successfully recycled for food and drink 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 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 marine plastic bottle has been developed as 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 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.
Bruno Van Gompel, technical and supply chain director for Coca-Cola in Western Europe said, “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, said: “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.”
Yash Lohia, chief recycling officer of Indorama’s recycling business group and board member of Indorama Ventures, said: “By collaborating with new ventures in enhanced recycling technologies, we have the opportunity to reshape and redefine the future of plastic packaging, ensuring that nothing goes to waste. PET of any quality can now be recycled and upcycled, at the same time resulting in a lower carbon footprint for packaging.”
“This bottle is testament to what can be achieved, through partnership and investment in revolutionary new technologies. In bringing together partners from across our supply chain, from a community cleanup initiative in Spain and Portugal to an investment in technological innovation in the Netherlands, we have been able, for the first time, to bring damaged marine plastic back to food-grade material with which we can make new bottles,” said Van Gompel.
Coca-Cola, an Atlanta, Georgia-based company, has set out clear goals to work toward a World Without Waste, including that it will collect a bottle or can for every one it sells by 2030.
The key partnerships in the development of the sample bottles containing recovered and recycled marine plastic are:
- Coastal cleanups: 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 nonprofit organizations—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 Coca-Cola bottle—and the world’s first drinking bottle—made with marine plastics.