NETHERLANDS – Leading soft drinks company, Coca-Cola is conducting a trial of new technology in Europe that can transform hard-to-recycle plastic into new bottles.

According to reports, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners is funding CuRe Technology- a start-up firm in the Netherlands, to trial a process that will produce food-grade recycled plastic from plastics that are otherwise incinerated or landfilled.

The new process cleanses and partially breaks down plastics, which are then reassembled into recycled material.

The partial depolymerization process removes color from polyester, thus producing clear PET pellets. The process produces 65% lower greenhouse gas emissions when compared with oil-based plastic production.

The plant is expected to produce nearly 25,000 metric tonnes of recycled plastic per annum by 2025, the majority of which will be supplied to Coca-Cola.

If the recycled plastic from the plant meets expectations, Coca-Cola will build a larger plant before end-2030.

Wouter Vermeulen, Coca-Cola’s senior director of sustainability and public policy in Europe noted that the new technology is critical to improve access to recycled material for bottles.

The project will help the company in achieving the previously stated goal of having at least 50% recycled materials content in its packaging by 2030.

“We are currently focused on scaling CuRe’s technology in the right way for use in Europe as a first priority, before looking at how this could benefit other markets,” Coca-Cola’s Mr. Vermeulen said.

The company needs its bottlers to use more recycled materials to meet its own sustainability goals. “We simply do not have the necessary levels [of recycled plastic],” said Joe Franses, vice president of sustainability at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners.

The new development comes at a time when packaging represents around 40% of Coca-Cola Europacific Partners’ carbon footprint, largely because of its use of oil-based virgin plastic.

It aims to stop using oil to produce plastic bottles by 2030. Last year, almost half of its bottles were made from recycled plastic and bioplastics.

By the turn of the next decade, Mr. Franses at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners envisions technology such as CuRe’s supplying around 25% of the bottling company’s needs while traditional recycling methods will satisfy about 70%.

He hopes recycled plastic supplied by CuRe’s method to be on par or not significantly more expensive than current recycled plastic, which can be 50% more costly than plastic made from oil.

“I’m not going to stand here in 2023 and say we’ve got a full road map that is going to take us there,” Mr. Franses said. “What I am confident about is that the business has made the right investments.”

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