Coca-Cola Targets 100% Recycled Plastic Packaging by 2030
By Genevieve Aningo
In a bid to curtail the diverse effects of climate change and waste prevention, Coca-Cola one of the world’s leading beverage companies, has set a target to recycle 100 percent of its plastic bottles used in packaging beverage drinks by 2030.
Amaka Oyemelukwe, Coca-Cola’s Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability Director disclosed this at the 4th edition of Lagos Waste Forum 2023, a high-level citizens’ forum on waste reduction and management held from 12 – 13 September 2023 in Lagos.
The theme of the event, ‘Investing in Plastics Recovery Towards A Circular Economy,” brought together industry stakeholders in the circular economy and waste management as they devised strategies to recover plastic waste in Lagos State and across Nigeria that would ultimately yield economic value, create jobs, and save the environment from degradation.
Speaking on behalf of Coca-Cola Nigeria, Amaka Oyemelukwe said: “Our aspiration is that 100 percent of our bottles can come back to us and be recycled by the year 2030, the equivalent of all of them, because we also understand that other brands are also using these packaging materials.
“Coca-Cola bottle beverages are packaged in PET containers, and we recognize that if these PET bottles are recycled, they can come back to us so we can use them to package another beverage. This is why the theme is important to us because we are advocating the power of our brand. In every one of our bottles, you would see “Please Recycle Me”.
“We are calling out consumers and the likes of the SWEEP Foundation to help. We have over 120 points in the Surulere community where we have put out bins that are dedicated to plastic collections because we want them to be close to households so people can easily see where they toss them after consuming the beverage so that they can be recycled.”
Onyemelukwe mentioned that Coca-Cola Nigeria is collaborating with other stakeholders in the circular economy to achieve this target and create economic value in the plastic value chain.
However, she pointed out that the challenge is the absence of sorting waste before disposal among Nigerians.
“We are driving leadership as Coca-Cola, which is why we have the Industry Alliance, where we are calling on other partners to be on the table so that we can achieve an economy of skills to make sure that the circular economy space is sustainable and commercially viable.
“We have seen industries spring up as a result of more and more bottles coming back, but the feedback today is that they are coming back in a manner that is unclean because they have gotten to the dumpsite, are more difficult to recycle, and cannot meet the food grade that we can use to bottle another bottle. Thus, our message today is for all of us to start to separate our waste from our kitchen,” she noted.
She stressed that dirty or contaminated plastics require more recycling mechanisms and can most times only be recycled into other products “But as a food company that bottles food, our circular economy model is that we want to use that bottle to create another bottle; that is the ultimate aim,” said Onyemelukwe.
Onyemelukwe also beckoned on the government to create an enabling environment by assigning space to encourage plastic pickers and aggregators to derive optimal value from the plastic recycling chain.
She added: “Empty spaces that are not being used can be used to aggregate those bottles in large quantities because an off-taker wants to also gain transport efficiency; he doesn’t want to move from one collector to another collecting it in wrinkles, so if we have a clustered point where all the waste pickers or collectors in that region can aggregate their plastics so that the day the aggregator is coming he can buy all of them in large form, that is why we believe that the government is the greatest enabler”.
In his speech, Stephen Agugua, the National Coordinator for the International Labour Organization, stated that the green economy could create 24 million jobs worldwide, and part of the ILO mandate is to ensure that Nigeria has a fair quantity of green jobs that would be produced.
He explained that the ILO’s collaboration with and support of the Lagos Waste Forum is a step toward achieving this green job target.
He said: “With the ILO mandate to regulate labor laws and promote multiple business and investment opportunities, the ILO is supporting this Lagos waste forum to protect the rights of plastic waste pickers in Nigeria.
“Part of the mandate of the ILO is to standardize labor law in countries around the world whereby trade union organizations like the Nigeria Labour Congress produce an enabling environment regarding labor issues and employment”
Agugua highlighted that there are numerous opportunities to be tapped in the plastic recycling chain and that the ILO is relentless in supporting this course by setting the right guidelines to ensure maximum protection of workers. He urged key players to drive innovative approaches to the Nigerian circular economy.
“If we look at the waste management industry, there are numerous job opportunities. We have waste pickers, waste managers, etc., and we have witnessed how waste has contributed to environmental degradation. The ILO’s mandate is to promote labor law as the world moves towards a greener economy.
“ILO has set its commitment towards improving e-waste management by providing guidelines and operational health and safety as a practical tool for accessing inflation and competent decisions to improve health and operational guidelines to improve the working environment. “Consequently, I urge you to champion innovative initiatives towards a greener Nigeria because we have the tools to create a desired nation devoid of environmental and economic challenges,” Agugua explained.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Belinda Aderonke Odeneye, Board Chair, Lagos Waste Forum, created more awareness on how waste sorting is essential to adding more value to plastic recycling.
“If you want a cleaner Nigeria, sort your waste and make money from it.”The way forward is that our mindset should change. We have raised the bar in the collection of plastic, thus strengthening the policy on the ground and keeping it more profitable in recycling, especially plastics. We can upscale our plastic collection to make more money.”
Ambassador Obuesi Phillips, President, of Lagos Waste Forum, revealed that foreigners are making money from waste in Nigeria, but he aims to sensitize Nigerians about the value of waste and encourage them to become actively involved.
According to him, “Foreigners come to Nigeria and take over the entire value chain, with which I have become inspired to know there is treasure in waste.”
Other industry gurus at the two-day event include Mr. Ola Oresanya, former Commissioner for Environment, Ogun State; Dr. Essien Aguabia, Director, Circular Economy, LAWMA; and many Lagos Waste Forum Board Members.
At the sideline of the event, Sustainability Awards were presented to the following organizations for their impact in achieving a greener Nigeria:
The Association of Carton and Waste Recycling Dealers of Nigeria
Plasticbuild Creative Solutions
The Association of Scraps and Waste Pickers of Lagos.