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Coke, Avery Dennison Drive Smartwater Towards Circularity with Recycled PET Waste

Image credit: Coca-Cola

While plastic packaging has a reputation for being convenient, it presents a serious problem for the planet — and brands’ bottom lines. One-use plastic packaging currently accounts for over $80 billion in losses annually. But more and more companies are beginning to see the value of employing circular practices to develop sustainable packaging options.

Most recently, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), Avery Dennison, Viridor and PET UK announced that they have teamed up to reduce waste, costs and the carbon footprint of Smartwater production in the UK.

The initiative, which turns label waste into products, was rolled out late last year in an effort by CCEP to reduce the carbon footprint of its Morpeth factory by approximately 180-200 tons of CO2.

Through the scheme, the participating parties expect to achieve annual savings of over $30,000 by simply recycling, rather than incinerating or disposing of bottle liners. In 2016 alone, 70 tons of PET liner waste were recycled.

Joe Franses, director of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at CCEP, said, “Our economy needs to evolve from the current ‘take-make-dispose’ model and we need a more circular, longer-term way of thinking. This example shows how we can turn the crisis of resources into a business opportunity through close collaboration across the value chain. Businesses which can be truly innovative with the products and services they provide, optimizing the resources they use and encouraging consumers to do the same, have the potential to transform our economy.”

According to Xander van der Vlies, Sustainability Director for Avery Dennison Materials Group Europe, CCEP wanted to further align Smartwater production with its focus on recycling, sustainability and creating a circular economy.

“Avery Dennison was a natural choice of partner for this project, given our ambitious year-on-year sustainability goals, and the various initiatives we promote around the reduction of waste created in the self-adhesive label value chain,” he said. “We have close relationships both with PET UK and with CCEP’s waste management company, Viridor, and together we have been able to establish a strategy that saves on waste and emissions while at the same time giving CCEP concrete business benefits and cost reductions.”

More than 50 million bottles of Smartwater were produced in 2015. The PET liners used (carrying the self-adhesive labels before dispensing) generated more than 40 tons of waste in that year, costing around $10,600 in disposal/handling costs. Under the new recycling scheme, PET UK shreds and extrudes the waste PET liner and then transforms them into a raw material suitable for making new items such as PET staple fiber, strapping or thermoformable sheets, which are used in the production of trays.

Van der Vlies noted that raising awareness on PET recycling will continue.

“Since we launched this initiative with PET UK in 2014, we have signed up many wine, spirits, beer and beverage brands. Avery Dennison has set an ambitious sustainability goal for 2025 of eliminating 70 percent of liner waste from the industry value chain.”

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