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Trending: Dow, Coca-Cola Ramp Up Efforts to Make Packaging Circular

Image credit: Coca-Cola

Industry heavy hitters are making moves to create circular solutions that keep everyday products, such as chip bags and plastic drinking bottles, out of landfills with the launch of groundbreaking waste-to-energy programs and closed-loop packaging solutions.

The Dow Chemical Company has struck up a new partnership with Keep America Beautiful in an effort to help communities keep traditionally non-recycled plastics — such as chip bags, sachets and juice bags — out of landfills.

As part of the partnership, the multinational will award two $50,000 grants for organizations to create Hefty® EnergyBag™ programs in their communities, which will see recyclable materials converted into energy.

The program sees households in participating communities place their non-recycled plastic items in Hefty® EnergyBag™ orange bags and put them in curbside recycling bins at the same time as regular recyclables. The orange bags are then delivered to a material recycling facility where they are sorted and delivered to local energy recovery facilities, which then convert the bag contents into energy resources, such as fuel or a chemical feedstock that can be used to make new plastics in a closed-loop system.

The grant is funded through the company’s Global Citizenship Impact Fund, which provides financial resources for business-aligned global citizenship initiatives focused on three key impact areas: access to clean drinking water, packaging to prevent food waste and post-consumer waste management.

“The Hefty® EnergyBag™ program demonstrates Dow’s commitment to advancing a circular economy, a pillar of our 2025 Sustainability Goals,” said Neil Hawkins, Chief Sustainability Officer for Dow. “In partnership with Keep America Beautiful, these grants will enable the growth of this important initiative and show the power of a collaborative blueprint for reducing landfill waste and waste released to the environment, two critical global priorities.”

The first Hefty® EnergyBag™ program was launched in Omaha, NE in September 2016 and has since expanded from 6,000 to 8,500 households. As of June 2017, the Omaha program has collected more than 13,000 bags of previously non-recycled plastics, diverting more than six tons of waste previously destined for landfills.

The Omaha program is based on the success of a 2014 Energy Bag Pilot in Citrus Heights, Calif. and is a collaborative effort between Dow, Reynolds Consumer Products, Recyclebank, First Star Recycling, Conagra Brands and Systech Environmental Corporation.

“The Hefty® EnergyBag™ program is a true proof point for our efforts to redefine the role of business in society,” said Diego Donoso, Business President for Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics. “By sharing knowledge and resources with communities, we are enabling grant recipients to develop sustainable Hefty® EnergyBag™ programs in their backyards — a crucial step as we look to scale the initiative across the country.”


Meanwhile, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) is on a mission to prevent its packaging from ending up in landfills. The multinational beverage company has unveiled an ambitious new sustainable packaging strategy in Great Britain, in which it aims to double the amount of recycled plastic in all of its bottles to 50 percent by 2020.

According to a new research report by The Guardian, a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute, a number which is expected to rise by 20 percent by 2021. In 2016, more than 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold across the world, up from 300 billion a decade ago. Coca-Cola alone produces 100 billion disposable plastic bottles every year — the majority of which make their way into landfills or the environment, with only 57 percent of the plastic bottles used each year being recycled.

Research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has revealed that between five million and 13 million tons of plastic leaks into the oceans every year and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic than fish.

Despite these daunting figures, companies remain hesitant to beef up the amount of recycled material used in their bottles, with the top six beverage companies using an average of under seven percent recycled PET in their products. While plastic drinking bottles could be made from 100 percent recycled plastic, brands are wary of recycled PET out of fear that consumers will respond negatively to plastic bottles that aren’t crystal clear.

Coca-Cola’s new packaging push could, however, usher in a whole new era for the industry. The company's sustainable packaging strategy focuses on three key areas:

  • Continuing to innovate to ensure packaging is as sustainable as possible
  • Investing in consumer communication to promote recycling and encourage behavior change
  • Championing reform of the UK recycling system to ensure more packaging is recovered and recycled

“Our goal is to work with local and national partners to ensure all of our packaging is recovered and recycled. Our new strategy sets out how we will start work to achieve that,” said Leendert den Hollander, VP and General Manager at CCEP GB. “We have focused on the actions we can take as a business — such as our ability to communicate to consumers on the importance of recycling — as well as the areas where we want to work in close collaboration with others to reduce litter and increase the recovery and recycling of plastic bottles.”

“Our desire to double the amount of recycled material we use in our plastic bottles sends a clear signal that we want to play a positive role in supporting the circular economy here in Great Britain. Our ambition — and our ability to go further in the future – will require reform of the packaging collection system in Great Britain and we will work with others to champion the changes that are required to ensure all our valuable materials are recovered.”

While Coca-Cola’s bottles and cans are already 100 percent recyclable, the company intends to double the amount of recycled plastic in all of its PET bottles over the next three years — from 25 percent to 50 percent by 2020. The company will continue its long-term partnership with Clean Tech, which operates Europe’s largest and most advanced plastic bottle reprocessing facility, in order to achieve this.

“To have a brand as well-known and with the reach of Coca-Cola actively encouraging more people to recycle is a really positive step which we welcome,” said Marcus Gover, Chief Executive of WRAP. “A commitment that half of all the plastic they use will be recycled plastic, understanding that this will cost the business more, shows real leadership in the industry and provides the essential market for recovered materials. Initiatives like this are much needed if we are to change consumer behavior and recover and recycle more – WRAP and Recycle Now are excited to be working with them on this. We need more big brands to help inspire people to do their part.”

The beverage giant will also launch a new communications campaign designed to inspire more consumers to recycle. At the core of the campaign is an advertisement that is set to air at the end of July across TV, cinema and digital channels. The spot, which is expected to reach 35 million people across Great Britain by the end of the year, features two love-struck plastic bottles who are parted and then reunited as they are disposed of properly, recovered and then recycled into new bottles. Coca-Cola will also be putting a new recycling message on bottles this year and promoting recycling to six million people at festivals and events.

In addition to its new packaging and advertising campaign, Coca-Cola plans to work with local and national governments to improve the current packaging recycling system through stronger recycling targets, deposit return schemes and extended user responsibility.

As part of its commitment to support the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ new working group on voluntary and economic incentives to reduce littering, CCEP will roll out an on-the-go bottle collection and reward program. The pilot will examine the behavioral impact of reward schemes and help inform any future national approaches to reducing litter and increasing collection and recycling rates.


Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]


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