Design, Collect and Partner: Investing in Our Planet

Making sure future generations inherit a sustainable and equitable future means that while focusing on the big picture, we pay attention to the details. This drives our World Without Waste strategy, our 2030 Water Security Strategy and our engagement with local communities.


Babongile Mandela, Public Affairs, Communications, and Sustainability Director (PACS) for Coca‑Cola Africa, shares that Coca‑Cola in South Africa endorses Earth Day as a show of commitment to our business strategy to achieve a sustainable future.

"Investment is part of all business models, but sustainable investment is part of Coca‑Cola’s DNA. A primary example of this is our World Without Waste strategy."

Coca‑Cola realises that apart from forming meaningful partnerships with substantial stakeholders in the recycling chain, we need to engage with the people on the ground who help facilitate the collection of recyclable material. This was a source of income for waste collectors – of which there are more than 60,000 across the cities and towns of South Africa.

In 2021, globally, the total weight of our primary consumer packaging (PET, glass, cans, cartons) was roughly 5.30 million metric tons, the percentage of which was recyclable was 90%. In addition, we recycled or reused 61% of the packaging we introduced into the market in 2021.

"We can – and do – play an important role in helping to create the systemic change necessary to achieve a healthier planet and a more inclusive and sustainable economy," says Mandela. "This requires involving many stakeholders."

PETCO – the PET Recycling Company NPC – is a registered Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) that assists its members to remain compliant with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations involving post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recycling. For almost 20 years, PETCO has continued growing the collection and recycling of PET bottles and advancing local recycled PET (rPET) capacity.

Coca‑Cola is a signatory to The SA Plastics Pact, which commits to several key targets, including making 100% of our plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, ensuring 70% of our plastic packaging is effectively recycled by 2025, and including 30% average post-consumer recycled content across all plastics packaging (by 2025).

In partnership with BanQu, PETCO drove the rollout of the BanQu technology for Project UP, which commenced in October 2021 and is funded by The Coca‑Cola Foundation (TCCF). BanQu is a blockchain technology platform that tracks trade in recyclables between participating waste collectors and buy-back centres. Currently, some 8,801 waste collectors were onboard, 104 buy back centres had been signed on, and 8,695 tonnes of recyclable materials have been captured.

The system works by recording each waste collector’s transaction with the buy-back centre and notifying them – reclaimers don't require expensive smartphones as the system sends a simple SMS when payment is processed. In this way, the waste collectors can track their income and, more importantly, build up a digital financial record that will help them in the future to access credit.

The other important element of Project UP is that it contributes towards the national digital record of collected recyclables, identifying trading volumes and the kinds and value of the materials collected.

"An unforeseen consequence of this digital transformation has been the improved relationship between the waste collectors and the buy-back centres," says Mandela. "Many waste collectors now tend to focus on one buy-back centre, which in turn, gets to know and can assist the waste collectors where and when necessary."

PETCO's 2021 Annual Report stated that its funded collection volume increased by 14%, from 79,078 tonnes in 2020 to 90,402 in 2021. According to the report, this represents 63% of the PET waste put into the market by its members.

The recycled material is turned back into bottles and several other products. Mandela says this was in keeping with Coca‑Cola's drive for a circular economy.

"Our corporate aim is for beverage packaging to form part of the circular economy. In this way, we give packaging materials value. By capturing this value – through waste pickers, for example – we can shift the consumer's perception of plastics as waste or disposable, to seeing it as valuable and integral to the circular economy," he says.

This is a central tenant of the company's World Without Waste strategy, which is built around three pillars: design, collect and partnering with others to support a sustainable, debris-free environment. Such collaboration with many internal and external stakeholders is essential to achieve our purpose of refreshing the world and making a difference. Meaningful partnerships with governments, businesses and civil society can drive collective action and build shared opportunities for people and communities around the globe.

As Kathleen Rogers, President of EARTHDAY.ORG, says the fight for a green revolution and the health of future generations must be done together. "Businesses, governments, and civil society are equally responsible for taking action against the climate crisis and lighting the spark to accelerate change towards a green, prosperous, and equitable future,” she said.

As one of the world's largest and most recognised companies, we can use our size to help achieve this.