A world without waste
A project that started in 2017, has seen PET recycling rates accelerate from 16% in 2005 to 66% in 2018, on par with the European Union.
07 April 2019 | Environment
The invention of plastic changed the world in so many ways – for better and for worse – and it's hard to picture modern life without it.
Plastic has reduced food waste and packaging costs, contributing to food security, while enabling the convenience lifestyle of the modern working family. And, says Jacques Vermeulen, Chief Executive of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA), the absence of plastic packaging would increase the risk of food product contamination and the spread of disease to understand the vital part it plays.
Unfortunately it's the volume of plastic pollution that has become unsustainable.
A study published in 2017 in the journal Science Advances found that by 2015, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic had been produced globally since 1950. Of this, 6.4 billion metric tons had become waste with only 9% recycled, 12% incinerated and 79% accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.
The worst of it is that plastic production has been accelerating exponentially this millennium. Since 2000, more than double the amount of plastic was produced than in the previous 50 years.
“Drastic change is needed, and since we cannot entirely eliminate plastic, we must find ways to keep it from being an environmental risk,” Vermeulen said.
Recognising this responsibility, The Coca-Cola Company, with its bottling partners, has committed to collect and recycle 100% of its packaging by 2030 as part of a vision called World Without Waste. “We are confident about the progressive steps we are making to accelerate the achievement of this ambition,” he said.
According to Enid Johr, public affairs and communications manager for CCBA, food and beverage packaging is an important part of our modern lives, yet the world has a packaging problem. “We have a responsibility to help solve the problem. Clearly, plastics are a significant global challenge. While we use many types of packaging, our main focus is on addressing plastic. Our commitment is to invest in our planet and our packaging, to help make the world's packaging problem a thing of the past,” she said.
Johr added that people matter and our planet matters.
“We believe in doing business the right way by following our values and working toward solutions that benefit us all. Profitability is important, but not at any cost. When we grow our business the right way, not just the easy way, we help create opportunity for our communities, our customers, our employees and our shareholders,” she said.
The World Without Waste project kicked off in August 2017 and as part of CCBA, Coca-Cola Namibia Bottling Company (CCNBC) collected and recycled close to 900 tonnes in 2018.
According to Vermeulen, it has helped build a sustainable recycling industry that has seen South Africa's PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) recycling rates accelerate from 16% in 2005 to 66% in 2018, on par with the EU.
More than two billion PET bottles were collected and recycled in South Africa in 2017 alone. This injected R966 million into that economy and helped generate opportunities for 64 000 people, creating the building blocks for a self-sustaining recycling value chain.
According to Vermeulen, recyclers in South Africa are contracted to accelerate collection and recycling in Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana. The reason it is not recycled in Namibia directly, is a lack of facilities.
Johr said that Namibia does not have a facility that enables them to recycle PET locally. “As a result, many recyclable plastics and other commodities such as glass, cans and paper are exported to South African companies to recycle.”
In Namibia, they have contracted and partnered with local collectors, such as Rent-a-Drum and many smaller collectors, to accelerate collection of post-consumer waste (especially PET) which they then sell to South African recyclers. “We assist these collectors with bailer machines to enable them to bale product before transporting to South Africa.”
CCNBC is one of the founding members of the Namibia Beverage Container Alliance (NBCA). Other entities that form part of the NBCA include Olthaver & List, Namibia Breweries Pty Ltd, Namibian Dairies, Plastic Packaging and Rent-A-Drum (Pty) Ltd.
The NBCA is a subcommittee of the Recycle Namibia Forum (RNF), with a specific emphasis in the recovery of post-consumer beverage containers and packaging materials such as non-returnable glass containers, PET containers, cans, tetra containers and other plastic containers and packaging materials.
NBCA assists with general RNF campaigns and undertakes initiatives to increase the collection rates of recyclable materials throughout Namibia.
The RNF also runs Namibia's biggest schools recycling competition, educating children about the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling. Coca-Cola Namibia sponsored five of these recycle stands at schools.
One thing is certain, efforts to create a World Without Waste will build on the progress they made last year.
“The spread of plastic pollution is without question one of the great challenges of our times, but we are confident that by designing better packaging solutions, enabling collection and partnering with industry, government and civil society we can achieve the vision of a World Without Waste.”