Coca-Cola and the Environment

(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma).

When it comes to Coca-Cola and the environment, recycling and water management are two key facets of the company’s approach.

Water Management

In fact, one of Coke’s signature environmental goals for 2010 is to replenish back to the community all the water it uses in its manufacturing processes. That initiative focuses on treating and recycling the wastewater that’s a byproduct of the manufacturing process before it’s returned to the environment. Coca-Cola seeks to treat the water such that its quality often exceeds levels mandated by local law.

As part of its water management policy, the Atlanta-based company also aims to establish wastewater treatment standards in client communities that currently do not have such standards. And the company will require all of its bottling partners to adopt its wastewater guidelines by the end of 2010.

To reduce the need for external water sources, Coke sometimes uses treated wastewater to irrigate landscaping or control dust.

Coca Cola was one of six companies in 2007 that signed onto the CEO Water Mandate, a United Nations initiative that seeks to develop and implement global water management practices. In addition to reducing water consumption, Coke and the other signatories have agreed to consider water conservation when making key corporate decisions, including where new facilities open.

Water is a key element of Coke’s manufacturing processes, and reducing water usage is a prominent corporate goal. And to that end, the company has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to track and manage water usage at its roughly 900 bottling plants around the world. In 2008, it used 2.43 liters of water on average to produce one liter of Coke or other beverages. The company aims to reduce that ratio to 2.17 liters of water usage per liter of product by 2012.

Through the partnership with WWF, Coke is helping to conserve seven river basins around the world that are under stress, including the Yangtze and Mekong River deltas, and rivers and streams in the southeastern portion of the U.S. The company is striving to improve processes at its manufacturing plants in order to reduce carbon emissions, which along with other factors of global warming, threaten the quality and quantity of the world’s freshwater supply.


As part of its concern for the environment, the company also has significant initiatives aimed at increasing the amount of recycled material it uses to produce bottles of Coke and other beverages.

Coca-Cola has set a goal of recovering 50 percent of the material used in its bottles and cans by 2015, up from 35 percent currently. The company also seeks to obtain 25 percent of the material needed to produce its polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles from recycled matter by 2015.

By recycling PET material, Coke can cut down on its energy use by 70 percent. The effort can reduce greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing by 40 percent, compared with using PET plastic that does not contain recycled content.

The company continues to invest in emerging recycling technologies. Coke works with six bottle-to-bottle recycling plants, including the world’s largest bottle-to-bottle plant, which is located in Spartanburg, S.C. Coca-Cola invested more than $60 million to build the 30-acre plant, which opened in 2009 and is a joint venture with United Resource Recovery Corp.

The Spartanburg plant will produce 100 million pounds of recycled PET plastic each year, and will support the company’s long-term goal to recycle or reuse 100 percent of the PET plastic bottles it sells in the U.S.

Coca-Cola has introduced a new type of plastic bottle called “plantbottle,” which contains up to 30 percent plant-based, renewable materials.

Many of the company’s material innovations have reduced the weight of its beverage containers. As a result, there’s less material to recycle, and because the plastic bottles and aluminum cans are now lighter, the trucks that transport products to retailers use less fuel.

As part of its packaging approach, the company’s long-term goal is to eliminate the loss of raw materials, energy and water during the manufacturing process.

Editor's note: Coca-Cola is a sponsor of the Mother Nature Network.