Leading the way on recycled content

We want to make sure that the bottle in our consumer’s hand has been a bottle before and has the chance to be a bottle again. Australian innovation at Coca-Cola Amatil is making it happen.

We want to make sure that the bottle in our consumer’s hand has been a bottle before and has the chance to be a bottle again. Australian innovation at Coca-Cola Amatil is making it happen.

In early 2018, Coca-Cola Amatil released a suite of ten public Sustainability Goals to be achieved by the end of 2020. One of these goals was to develop the business case for a weighted average of 50 per cent recycled plastic in PET containers across the Australian portfolio, including carbonated soft drinks. This business case was approved in 2018 and all targeted packs (7 out of 10 of our plastic bottles) were transitioned by the end of 2019, taking the weighted average of recycled plastic in the Australian portfolio to 38 per cent in 2019.

It’s now June 2020, and six months ahead of our target date we’re very proud that by weight, 50 per cent of the plastic we use in our plastic bottles in Australia is recycled plastic (rPET).

It’s the largest commitment to using recycled plastic in the Australian beverage industry. But our rPET journey didn’t come without its challenges.

The challenge

While 100 per cent recycled plastic had previously been used to bottle still beverages, it had never been successfully achieved at scale for carbonated drinks in Australia.

Pressure inside a soft drink bottle is up to 100 psi, or three times the pressure in a car tyre. So, a bottle for carbonated drinks needs to be much stronger than for still beverages such as water, and that was the obstacle we needed to overcome in using 100 per cent recycled materials for these types of drinks.

Amatil innovation

Amatil had been working on a rPET program since 2010. Heading up this challenge was Coca-Cola Amatil Futurework’s Packaging Manager Craig Walker.

“We are always looking to address and reinvent our packaging to make it more sustainable, where plastics are renewed and reused. We’re also fortunate that Coca-Cola Amatil invested in the latest production technology, which accelerated our rPET success story,” said Walker.

“Key to this success was the shift to making all our bottles in-house. This allowed us to integrate our recycled plastic goals from the very beginning of the design process. From there, it was a continuous process of innovation, trial and error to get it right.

The Amatil Futureworks team and Packaging Services Division were able to overcome the challenge of using 100 per cent recycled PET to package carbonated beverages, creating smart bottle designs that factor in the unique qualities of recycled plastic.

The milestone: Producing Australia's first 100% recycled bottle for carbonated beverages

In June 2019, thanks to the hard work of many people across the business, Coca-Cola Amatil became the first in Australia to make 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles for carbonated beverages. It was also a world-first in the Coca-Cola Bottler system to make this change at scale.

As a result, we are now producing all single-serve carbonated and water bottles in 100 per cent recycled plastic in Australia including brands such as Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite as well as Keri Juice, Mount Franklin and Barista Bros . This increase in the use of recycled plastic reduces the amount of new plastic resin used by Amatil by an estimated 10,000 tonnes/year in Australia.

“To be the first Coca-Cola bottler in the world to introduce 100% rPET packaging, at scale, for both still and carbonated beverages is proof that we really are at the forefront of innovation right here in Australia,” continued Walker.

Our Futureworks team is sharing their technical expertise with other Coca-Cola bottlers globally. Their learnings and capability will improve the use of recycled plastic around the globe in both still and carbonated beverages, something we can be very proud of.

The future

While these are big steps and we are pleased to have met a sustainability goal six months ahead of schedule, we know there is still more work to do. When it comes to our larger pack sizes, our team is working hard to solve some of the technical limitations.

Alongside our commitment to using more recycled plastic, we will continue to focus our efforts on collection and supporting a local circular economy in Australia.

Coca-Cola Amatil has a 40-year history of operating South Australia’s collection scheme and, with partners, is the government-appointed coordinator for all schemes in operation around Australia – in NSW, QLD, NT, and ACT.

All of this activity helps reduce litter and supports the use of recycled plastic in our packaging, giving Coca-Cola Amatil bottles the best chance of being used again and again.