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Coca-Cola has backed down from its opposition to a proposed deposit return scheme for plastic bottles
The U-turn came after Sky News published a document obtained by Greenpeace showing Coca-Cola’s opposition to the proposed scheme, which Scotland is considering to increase the reuse and recycling of single-use plastic bottles. Under the scheme consumers would pay a small surcharge of about 10p per item, which is repaid when an empty can or bottle is returned to a retailer. Similar schemes in Germany and Sweden have increased recovery rates to 85%.
As we reported earlier this month the internal company document, written in March 2016, contains a risk matrix that targets EU deposit schemes as a subject of a “fightback” for the company, along with “increased collection and recycling targets” and “disruptive unfair EPR [extended producer responsibility] schemes.
Environmental campaigners accused Coca-Cola of resisting the scheme’s introduction because of increased costs and logistics.
A spokesperson for Coca-Cola told Sky News earlier this month: "Whilst we support and participate in deposit schemes in some countries, in some cases we have believed a different approach could be more effective and more sustainable than DRS - and in the UK we have raised some concerns about the impact of a DRS scheme on household recycling rates."
But in a statement this week Coca-Cola GB said its position had “evolved” and that “the time is right to trial new interventions such as a well-designed deposit return scheme for drinks containers, starting in Scotland, where conversations are underway”.
The company pointed out that it had made significant progress to improve the sustainability of its packaging in recent years, with all of its cans 100% recyclable. “We’ve also reduced the amount of material we use, making our packs as light as possible and we are committed to increasing the amount of recycled and renewable material in our plastic bottles from 25% to 40% by 2020.”
The statement said Coca-Cola GB had embarked on a major review of its sustainable packaging strategy since the start of the year, consulting with expert organisations, NGOs and policymakers.
“We’ve also been talking to and listening to our consumers and know two thirds (63%) of them support the introduction of a deposit return system in the UK, and half (51%) say they’d be more likely to recycle as a result. From our experience elsewhere in Europe, we know that deposit schemes can work if they are developed as part of an overall strategy on the circular economy, in collaboration with all industry stakeholders. We are open to exploring any well-thought-through initiative that has the potential to increase recycling and reduce litter.”
Meanwhile, Suez UK, one of Britain’s biggest waste collection firms, threw its backing behind a UK-wide deposit scheme for plastic bottles this week. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Suez’s CEO David Palmer-Jones said: “Investing in a UK-wide deposit scheme for plastic bottles makes not just environmental sense but, importantly, economic sense too. It puts pounds in the pockets of both households and business through reduced waste disposal costs and reduced need to buy virgin raw materials.”
Palmer-Jones said a bottle deposit scheme would save councils millions of pounds in waste collection and significantly reduce the tons of plastic waste currently sent to landfill.
Suez has contracts with 60 UK councils and provides household rubbish collections to 12 million people.
Coca cola plastics recycling deposit return scheme