EPR Initiatives: the case of Coca Cola

Republic Act 11898, or the Extended Producers Responsibility Act of 2022, mandates companies with total assets exceeding ₱100 million to reduce their plastic footprint by 20% at the end of 2023 to 80% by 2028. They have several options on how to fulfill their legal obligations. It can be in the form of buying back waste from consumers, establishing a recycling system, carrying out clean-ups and forming partnerships with local governments, communities, and the informal waste sector.

So, how are the “obliged enterprises” doing so far? They are supposed to submit a report to the DENR on their compliance for 2023. I searched the internet for some companies that have made public their EPR initiatives. Let’s look at the Coca-Cola Company, maker of Coke and other beverages.

For 2018 and 2019, Coca-Cola Company was the top source of plastic waste in the Philippines, according to the ‘Break Free From Plastic’s Brand Audit Report in 2019’ (https://news.mongabay.com/2019/11/coke-is-again-the-biggest-culprit-behind-plastic-waste-in-the-philippines/). In the 2022 report, The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, and Nestlé were named as the world’s top plastic polluters for five years running. What has Coca -Cola Company done to reduce their plastic waste and comply with the EPR law?

It’s interesting to know that even before the EPR law, Coca‑Cola introduced their 100% recycled plastic in 2019 for their Viva Eco-Bottle and Sprite Clear Bottle designs. It’s not stated though where the bottles came from. Today, Coca‑Cola said that its 190ml and 390ml PET bottles are made from 100% recycled plastic, excluding the cap and label which are made from another type of plastic. By the way, Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), identified by plastic recycling symbol #1, is the most recycled plastic in the world.

Coca-Cola’s bottling arm has partnered with Thailand-based Indorama Ventures and establish the biggest state-of-the-art, bottle-to-bottle PET recycling facility in the country. The projected capacity is 30,000 metric tons of PET bottles per year, or equivalent to approximately 3 billion bottles. Many years ago, San Miguel Corporation had a PET recycling facility at the SMC complex in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga. I heard it operated only for a short period of time. I have no information on its current status.

Putting up a recycling facility is one thing. Recovering used PET bottles is another. What Coca-Cola did was to initiate a Balik Plastic Project or Blastik. They also have this Tindahan Extra Mile (TEM): Balik PET Bottle Program where consumers from Metro Manila can drop off their empty PET bottles for recycling at over 2,200 sari-sari stores and carinderias. It was not mentioned if they will accept all kinds of PET bottles and not just Coca-Cola products. No information too on what they will do with the plastic caps and labels.

In addition to investing in a recycling facility. Another innovation that Coca-Cola did was to reduce the weight of its PET plastic packaging by 20%. With these projects, have they met the 20% requirement for 2023? We’ll find out after their audited report to DENR is made public.


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