The onslaught of Covid-19 for the past two years has forced us to take better care of our health, and, in effect, of the environment as well. In a world riddled by a pandemic, people have further realized the importance of making more environment-friendly purchasing decisions, which has positively impacted the way companies now approach policies surrounding sustainability—which can only mean good news for generations of consumers to come.
In the beverage manufacturing industry, one of the largest companies leading the charge in sustainability across their entire value chain is Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc. (CCBPI). From water and energy conservation to waste management and reduction, CCBPI engages the communities they operate in through long-term initiatives that are aligned with their sustainability goals.
“We have a huge local footprint: 20 plants, 10,000 employees, and over 70 distribution centers that serve close to a million micro retailers and 6,000 customers. As such, we have a huge responsibility, too,” says Gareth McGeown, president and CEO of CCBPI.
Over the years, CCBPI has made strong progress in the Philippines in terms of reaching their sustainability goals, says [spokesperson]. To conserve energy, for one, over 65 percent of Coca-Cola’s total energy requirement is being taken from clean and renewable sources (geothermal and solar). All of Coca-Cola’s manufacturing sites that are viable to be converted to 100% renewable energy—given the existing grid and connectivity infrastructure—have already been transitioned to use such sources.
These sites are located in Sta. Rosa and Canlubang in Laguna; Ilocos; Calasiao, Pangasinan; San Fernando, Pampanga, Meycauayan, and Cebu.
Just this year, around 14,000 solar panels have also been installed at three CCBPI plants in Bacolod, Misamis Oriental, and Davao.
“More multi-phase solar energy projects are underway at our mega plants in Canlubang, Sta. Rosa, Zamboanga, and Cebu,” says McGeown. Outside of their manufacturing sites, CCBPI ensures that they minimize their carbon footprint by utilizing trucks that are Euro IV- and Euro V-compliant, as these vehicles produce cleaner emissions.
As a beverage company, Coca-Cola is highly cognizant of its water consumption—so much so that the company has a water replenishment goal, which is to “return every single drop of water” used in their beverages to communities and to nature. Last year, they achieved around 132% of this goal through community projects such as AGOS, which provides water access to water-poor communities, and water-saving initiatives and operational efficiencies in their manufacturing sites.
To address the issue of waste, Coca-Cola has put in place an initiative that is specifically geared toward this global problem: World Without Waste, a holistic plan to fundamentally reimagine its approach to packaging. Since 2018, Coca-Cola’s “World Without Waste” commitment has been up and running, with the goal of collecting and recycling the equivalent of every bottle and can that they sell by 2030, and to integrate an average of 50 percent recycled content in their packaging.
““It’s clear that we are facing a plastic packaging waste problem, and we have a responsibility to help solve it. It is unacceptable that our packaging ends up in oceans and landfills—in places where they shouldn’t—when they are 100% recyclable and have inherent value as raw material,” says McGeown.
”We have been implementing lightweighting initiatives in our packaging, which means we are using less plastic throughout our operations; to date, we have reduced our use of virgin plastic resin and plastic by 10,000 metric tons. Our packaging for single-serve (500ml and 330ml) Wilkins and Viva is now lighter by 17 to 25 percent per pack type.”
By the end of 2022, Coca-Coloa also plans to exit the sachet business, McGeown adds. The company will also be introducing paper straws and removing plastic straws from their juice and dairy products, Minute Maid, and Nutriboost.
Here in the Philippines, in particular, CCBPI’s biggest investment toward a “World Without Waste” is its P2.28-billion multiphase project: PETValue, a PET food-grade bottle-to-bottle recycling facility, which was granted pioneer status by the Philippine Board of Investments in 2020 – the first of its kind in the country.
Through their partnership with Indorama Ventures, a global leader in green technologies and packaging solutions, the PETValue facility’s construction is currently underway in General Trias, Cavite, and is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Its projected capacity, or the amount of used plastic bottles it can process, is at around 30,000 metric tons—or approximately two billion pieces of plastic bottles during the first three years of operations. CCBPI expects this capacity to double once they hit Phase 2 of the project.
“Establishing and strengthening circularity for our packaging, PETValue will help ensure that used PET plastic bottles—packaging that is 100% recyclable, and therefore not ‘single-use’—will be given new life and function as these are collected, processed, and reused within a circular economy,” says [spokesperson].
The facility’s pioneering technology will also generate jobs for Filipinos, as it will be using the safest, most advanced, and world-class recycling technologies for PET plastic bottles, tech that has been proven on a global scale, [spokesperson] adds.
And when it comes to packaging initiatives, CCBPI’s consumers are also their strongest partner in achieving their goals as half of their beverages come in returnable glass. As for their PET plastic bottles and cans, these are all 100-percent recyclable and therefore have value as such materials—which, again, contributes to the income of many Filipinos working as waste-pickers and waste-collectors.
Collaboration with stakeholders in government likewise empower consumers to do their part in minimizing their waste output. In Batanes, CCBPI signed on Earth Day last April 2021 a Memorandum of Understanding with the local government unit of Basco to collect 20,000 kilograms of PET bottles accumulated over the years in their eco-center. These will be brought to the PETValue facility and will form part of the initial feedstock that will be processed there. A similar initiative is in place in the City of Manila: Under their Memorandum of Agreement, clear PET bottles, regardless of brand or manufacturer, that are deposited in CCBPI’s contour bottle bins will be collected by Manila’s Department of Public Service. These will then be hauled to the PETValue recycling facility.
“In this small pilot program, we’ve already collected close to 100 kg worth of clear PET bottles,” says McGeown. “All these partnerships and initiatives, of course, are just the beginning—we look forward to continuing working with our partners as we move forward with our sustainability roadmap. We’ve always strived to do business the right way and not just the easy way.”