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Coke is getting serious about renewability

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Two of the most important emerging factors in the package world over the last decade are recyclability and renewability. For many consumers, the difference between the two has not been clear, and continues to blur as new technologies emerge.

Recyclability is what is taking place today with trillions of PET bottles that are produced every year, to pack anything ranging from soft drinks to ketchup. Once these packages are discarded, they end up in the recycle stream, to be reground, and they typically end up as some other product, like a park bench.

A renewable product comes from a renewable resource, such as packaging paper from paper pulp, which naturally comes from trees, which is a renewable resource as long as more is planted than what is taken out.

The irony is that packages that are typically good in recycling, are not necessarily from renewable resources, i.e. petroleum based products like plastic. Renewable products can be recycled well, but renewable resources have typically reduced capabilities in respect to their recyclable (but not renewable) counterparts, and therefore they need to be complemented with petroleum products.

So, PET bottles are highly recyclable, but not renewable. Forest based renewable products are recyclable (i.e. shipping cartons), but if advanced capabilities are needed, such as barriers for food packaging, then they typically need plastic liners. And the multilayered products do not recycle well.

Coke is taking a smart approach where they are heading towards substituting a renewable resin from Brazil in place of the petroleum based resin, footing the bill for higher material costs, but taking the best of both worlds. You can read a WSJ article regarding Coke and renewability here.

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