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Uptake of Coke’s 1,5 returnable PET bottles is growing

By Sue Segar

MORE than 30 years ago, the Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages Company (CCPB)– a franchise bottler of the Coca-Cola Company which operates in the Western and Northern Cape – introduced a 1,5 (litre) Returnable PET bottle to contribute to returnable portfolio.

Today, the uptake of this returnable initiative is getting better all the time, said John Joubert, the Commercial Director of CCPB.

Interviewed by Cape Business News, Joubert said CCPB has existed for more than 80 years and has always had returnable packages in their portfolio.

“Originally we had 175 ml and 300 ml returnable glass bottles. Then, 31 years ago, we launched the 1,5 returnable PET bottle, which we call REFPET, a refillable plastic bottle which is a very big part of our portfolio.

“At the moment it makes up about 11 percent of the contribution to our total sales. It’s the second biggest pack within our portfolio and doing exceptionally well for us,” Joubert said.

“Currently we have a 200 ml returnable glass bottle for pubs, clubs and restaurants which is only in brand Coke, as well as a 300 ml returnable glass bottle which is in brands Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Stony and Coke No Sugar.

“Another big pack of ours which does really well in the Western Cape and is exclusive to the Western and Northern Cape, is a 500 ml returnable glass bottle which is in Coke, Coke No Sugar, Fanta, Sprite and Stoney.  This bottle is seven percent of our total contribution to sales,  together with the 1,5 litre REFPET containing Coke, Coke No Sugar, Fanta, Sprite, Stoney, Lemon Twist and Granadilla Twist makes up  18 percent of our mix.”

Joubert said the total contribution of returnables to their portfolio is 20 percent. “By global standards, this is high and is part of our commitment to a world without waste. We want to create a situation whereby we are recycling more virgin packaging material that we put into the trade on an annualised basis.

“That target has been set for 2030, and we are well on our way to achieve that, where the 1,5 REFPET plays a significant role. The use of the returnable, refillable, 1,5 litre bottle means we can get between 15 and 18 cycles of that bottle, meaning we are collecting, washing and refilling it 18 times which obviously reduces the solid waste we are putting into the environment.

 “We target it as the most affordable way to purchase one of our beverages on a rand per litre basis. The 1,5 litre returnable REFPET sells for R15 and there’s a R3 deposit on the bottle so people would return it to buy a new bottle and only pay for the contents (R15) or they return the bottle and get the refundable deposit of R3. By incentivising the consumer we ensure the bottles are returned.

“As a scheme this has worked very well for us.”

Joubert said the uptake of the REFPET bottles has grown at a compounded annual growth rate at 3 to 5 percent over the years, and contributes  eleven percent to its total portfolio.

Turning to another recycling development, Joubert said: “We replaced the ACL printed ink label on the plastic bottles, two years ago, allowing the use of generic bottles, but now with a paper label. We now have the flexibility to use one generic bottle for different brands by simply applying an easily removable paper label.

“The paper label communicates the contents to the consumer but importantly when you remove the paper label the bottles are much easier to recycle.

“A further advantage is when it comes to end of its life span after 15 to 18 trips it is much easier recycling a clear PET bottle into some other form of usable product.”

Joubert said Coca-Cola Beverages SA (CCBSA) which has the bottling franchise for Coke in the rest of South Africa, launched a two-litre returnable PET bottle about three years ago although it isn’t available  in the Western and Northern Cape. “With our commitment to a world without waste, we aim to increase the contribution of returnable glass and PET bottles, believing we can make a difference to the environment that really matters, he concluded.

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