How Will Coca-Cola’s Reusable Packaging Goal be Achieved?

Scaling up initiatives such as its ‘Universal Bottle’, Coca-Cola has announced that at least 25 percent of its beverages sold globally across its portfolio will be sold in refillable or returnable packaging by 2030.

Reusable packaging currently accounts for around 16 percent of the company’s total volume, although this varies greatly by market. In 20 markets, for example, returnable glass pottles and refillable PET already represents more than 50 percent of its sales.

“Use of refillables is growing in several markets,” the company noted. “Outperforming non-refillables in Germany and parts of Latin America where reusable bottles represented 27 percent of transactions in 2020.”

Coca-Cola introduced its ‘Universal Bottle’ in Brazil in 2018, with the format now also used across Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Panama. The reusable PET bottle can be used across multiple soda brands.

When a consumer finishes a drink, they can return the bottle to the point-of-sale, receiving a discount on their next purchase. Retailers store the empty bottles and then return them to Coca-Cola upon delivery of a new order. Coca-Cola takes the bottles back to a bottling factory where paper labels are washed off, bottles are cleaned, and then refilled and rebranded with a fresh label.

On average these bottles are reused up to 25 times, reducing overall plastic use by 90 percent. In Brazil, the company produces 1.8 billion fewer bottles in 2019.

Compared to single use PET bottles, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by 47 percent, and with water being a major consideration in cities such as San Paolo, water consumption is reduced by 45 percent, even with washing factored in. Coca-Cola is now pledging to expand the rollout of the Universal Bottle.

“This innovative solution drives efficiency of collection, cleaning and filling by offering multiple sparkling and still brands in the same reusable bottle with a single colour, shape, and size.”

In South Africa, Coca-Cola is expanding the rollout of refillable 2 litre and 1.5 litre PET plastic bottles which can be cleaned, refilled, and reused up to 14 times. After this, they can be recycled and made into new bottles.

In France, the company is partnering with supermarket Carrefour to pilot a circular shopping system called Loop. Consumers can order a variety of products, including Coca-Cola beverages, delivered to their home in customised packaging that collected, cleaned, refilled, and reused or recycled. And in the U.S, Coca-Cola is partnering with Burger King and TerraCycle for a pilot program in select cities to reduce single-use packaging waste by offering reusable food containers and beverage cups.

“These and other similar sustainability efforts helped pave the way for the globale reusable packaging target we are announcing,” said Coca-Cola.

“This will require significant investment, particularly in markets with limited refillable/returnable infrastructure.”