The Coca-Cola Company

The Need: Plastic, especially PET (polyethylene terephthalate), is among the most highly valued recyclable materials because it can be remade to make new bottles and other products. Currently, there is not enough recycled PET (rPET) available to meet increased demand. One reason is that not enough plastic is currently getting recycled. We need more PET recycled, so that we can turn that into rPET, promoting a circular economy.

Traditionally, unpigmented PET has the highest value and the widest variety of end-use applications for recycling. However, many of our brands utilize green PET. Green PET can’t easily be turned back into clear plastic, so it’s less valuable for the overall market and doesn’t promote bottle-to-bottle recycling.

The Solution: Since its launch in 1959, Sprite has always sported a signature green bottle. But in 2022, the entire Sprite PET portfolio will evolve from its iconic green color packaging to clear PET to optimize the package for recycling and in turn, increase rPET supply. The transition will take place in the U.S. and Canada and include Mello Yello, Seagram’s and Fresca brands.

While colored PET can be recycled, there are challenges in reusing that material in the form of high-quality, food-grade recycled PET. Colored PET also has less value in the after-market compared to clear PET. Because of this, the transition from green to clear PET ensures that the bottles are easier to recycle. And therefore, increase its ability to remain in the circular economy.

What makes it particularly smart or circular? By transitioning our entire U.S. and Canada green PET portfolio to clear PET, we are increasing the bottles’ recyclability allowing more bottles a higher chance of being collected, recycled and reused.

The new clear PET bottles are easier to recycle, and therefore increases the value of the plastic in the after-use market and its ability to remain in the circular economy to be re-used for different purposes, including new bottles.

This strategy is in line with The Coca-Cola Company’s World Without Waste vision, which aims to recover and recycle a bottle or can for every one we sell and use 50% recycled content in our packaging by 2030. The work we are doing to increase our use of recycled content and support recycling are helping to drive a circular economy for plastics by creating more demand for recycled content, while also incentivizing the collection of recyclables.

Results, Benefits, and Outcomes to Date: We are still early in the process of transition but are hoping others are inspired to join us in the effort to optimize packaging for recycling and reuse in a circular economy.

Which of the Pact’s 4 Targets does your work help achieve? Target 2

How are you communicating your success? We are still early in the process, but we welcome the opportunity to share our learnings with others who looking to take a similar action.

What’s Next? We are addressing our entire packaging lifecycle— from how our bottles and cans are designed, to how they are recycled and repurposed through our World Without Waste initiative. We are working to make all our packaging more sustainable, including maximizing our use of renewable and recycled content while minimizing our use of virgin material.

Our goal is to create closed-loop systems, extracting the maximum value from packaging materials and products while in use, then preventing them from becoming waste through recovery, recycling and reuse.

Core Team, Partners, & Participants: The conversion from green to clear PET has truly been a cross-functional effort. Key internal partners include marketing, technical, research and development and sustainability.

Quote: “Sprite’s status as one of the biggest and most recognized brands in the world can largely be attributed to its crisp lemon-lime taste and the color green. As we continue to look at the overall recyclability and usability of all our packaging materials, we saw the opportunity to transition the colored plastic bottle of one of our biggest brands to clear plastic bottle, so it can be recycled easily and re-used to make new bottles. This initiative is a key example of how we’re using the power of our brands to educate, inspire and advance our sustainability priorities.” – Alpa Sutaria, Vice President and General Manager, Sustainability, North America Operating Unit, The Coca-Cola Company

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