Contrary to the popular belief that plastic is a single-use product, PET plastic is a big driver for the circular economy, and is used in many other products besides bottles, including cars, textiles and carpets.

At a time when there are growing concerns over how plastic waste is increasingly choking our oceans and waterways globally, The Coca-Cola Company is adopting a slew of measures to create a litter-free world or a ‘World Without Waste.’

The company recently tied up with the Road Development Authority (RDA) and the privately-held Eco-Spindles (a wholly owned subsidiary of BPPL) in Sri Lanka to prevent waste in the country by ensuring that PET plastic can be reused or recycled under the ‘Give Back Life’ initiative. 

As part of the programme,  collection bins have been placed at strategic exit points along the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway that allows motorists to dispose of PET plastic bottles for recycling, without littering public places. 

What’s more, signages have also set up along the expressway to educate and inform consumers about recycling of PET bottles. Opened in 2013, the expressway is a vital link between the capital city of Colombo and the Bandaranaike International Airport.      

The move is in line with the company’s global goal to build a more sustainable packaging infrastructure and an even more effective recycling program under its January 2018 ‘World Without Waste’ initiative. As part of the initiative, the company set a target of collecting and recycling the equivalent of 100% of its packaging by 2030.

Mayank Arora, Managing Director of Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd. said, “The launch of Coca-Cola’s ‘Give Back Life’ programme will ensure a pristine expressway for users and create the right impression for first-time visitors to Sri Lanka.”

Mayank Arora, Managing Director, Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd. disposes a PET plastic bottle at the ‘Give Back Life’ collection bin

Echoing the same sentiment, Eng. A.D.K. Mannapperuma - Deputy Director, Expressway Operation & Maintenance (EOM & M) Division, Road Development Authority added, “This collaboration between the RDA, Coca-Cola and BPPL reflects the importance of public-private partnerships to help improve public infrastructure, and promote a change in public habits to enhance waste management.”

So far, Coca-Cola has placed as many as 22 collection bins on the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway as part of its commitment towards environmental protection and societal well-being. Going forward, the company plans to follow a similar exercise in other parts of Sri Lanka as well. As part of the recycling programme, all PET bottles will be collected and re-used by Eco-Spindles to produce yarn and brushes, among other products.

Contrary to the popular belief that plastic is a single-use product, PET plastic is a big driver for the circular economy and is used in many other products besides bottles, including cars, textiles and carpets.

Globally, it’s a business that’s slowly catching up and garnering the interest of entrepreneurs and investors alike. According to industry data, in 2011, about 7.5 million tons of PET were collected, which gave 5.9 million tons of flake. In US, alone, the recycling rate for PET packaging was 31.2% in 2013.

Dr. Anush Amarasinghe, CEO of BPPL Group said, “The importance of recycling needs to be conveyed strongly across our nation. Not only does it keep our public spaces clean, but it also stimulates business.” For BPPL, for whom recycling is a key business, PET plastic forms the raw material for manufacturing brushes and yarn. PET plastic can be turned into garments, shoes, brushes and much more.

Asoka Vickremesinghe, Chairman- Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd. addresses a gathering

Currently, Sri Lanka (primarily through its informal sector) is estimated to collect and recycle around 25 – 30 % of PET bottles. Going forward, Coca-Cola Sri Lanka plans to drive and scale the ‘Give Back Life’ initiative to achieve collection that will result in PET neutrality for the business in Sri Lanka well before the set 2030 target. “If we increase collection, there should be more recycled PET for everyone to use,” said a Coca-Cola spokesperson. However, he was quick to add that a goal of this magnitude needs the cooperation and commitment of several partners.

Around the globe, Coca-Cola is working with a host of partners to create a cleaner and better environment, while renewing its focus on the entire lifecycle of packaging used. Currently, PET collection and recycling for Coca-Cola occurs in most of its 207 markets, in different ways and at varied stages. Markets such as South Africa, Mexico and Europe have very advanced collection and recycling programs.

Finally, as James Quincey, President and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company, said, “Bottles and cans shouldn’t harm our planet, and a litter-free world is possible.”

The company is adopting measures worldwide to invite others to join it on this critical journey. After all, the famous adage ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ is valid now more than ever!