Coca-Cola lightens up

A new lightweight bottle will enable Coca-Cola to reduce the amount of PET packaging it uses by over 700 tonnes per year.

Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) is to launch a new lightweight 500ml PET bottle in Great Britain, which will enable it to reduce the amount of PET packaging it uses by over 700 tonnes per year.

Following successful trials, partly funded by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), the new 24g bottle will replace Coca-Cola’s 26g bottle for brands including ‘Coca-Cola’, ‘diet Coke’, ‘Coke’ Zero, ‘Fanta’, ‘Sprite’ and ‘Lilt’.

Trials with CCE involved the production, filling and market testing of over four million lightweighted 24g PET bottles, and is the latest in a series of initiatives by CCE to reduce the amount of packaging used in PET bottles.

‘It is a significant technical challenge for the industry to reduce weight and the reduction in the weight of our 500ml PET bottles from 26 to 24 grams is a major step forward,’ said CCE Project Manager Christine Watson.

The trial proved to be technically and logistically challenging, involving extensive production trials and modifications to CCE’s bottle blowing equipment. During the trial CCE worked closely with PET supplier Amcor PET Packaging to redesign the preform bottle – the piece of moulded plastic from which bottles are produced. As a result, CCE was able to use a stronger, lightweight bottle with no decrease in quality, performance or customer satisfaction.

As a result of the trial, CCE is now investing over £150,000 to ensure that the necessary modifications can be made to bottle blowing equipment at CCE’s manufacturing sites at Sidcup and Wakefield to allow the production of the new 24g bottles.

The first 24g bottles are due to roll off the production lines at Sidcup in September 2007, followed closely by Wakefield – the biggest soft drinks factory in Europe – which will begin producing 24g bottles at the start of 2008. As a result, over 350 million of the new 24g 500ml bottles will be produced annually across both sites. This saving will increase to over 1,400 tonnes if the new lighter weight bottles are rolled out at other manufacturing sites and lines.

This work is part of CCE’s support for WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment – a voluntary agreement on reducing packaging waste, which has been signed by 25 leading brand owners, manufacturers and retailers. It aims to stop the increase in packaging waste by 2008 and bring about absolute reductions by 2010.

Findings from this and other WRAP lightweighting projects will now be shared with the rest of the industry and used to encourage greater PET ‘lightweighting’ across the sector. WRAP is aiming to encourage an 8-10% weight saving across all PET containers used by the UK soft drinks industry, saving around 20,000 tonnes of PET in the process.