A slogan has been added to the new caps of single-use PET Coca-Cola bottles in Germany, requesting that consumers ‘leave them on’. The caps are tethered to the safety ring on the necks of the bottles. (Image: Coca-Cola Germany)
Coca-Cola keeps its cap on
02.03.2022 - In November 2021, things changed for Coca-Cola customers: the bottle caps of the company’s popular beverages suddenly looked a bit different.
A slogan had been added to the bottle caps of many of Coca-Cola’s beverages, requesting that consumers ‘leave them on’. In November of last year, the bottling plant in Dorsten, North Rhine-Westphalia, was the first to make the change: the single-use PET bottles there are now equipped with caps that are tethered to a safety ring on the necks of the bottles. In doing so, Coca-Cola has implemented a European Union directive way ahead of time: the directive itself will become effective on 3 July 2024.
Driving the recycling economy for plastics
The name of the ordinance isn’t the only thing to pack a punch. The Ordinance on the Labelling of Single-Use Plastics [Einwegkunststoffkennzeichnungsverordnung] implements various sections of the EU directive resolved in 2019, and is a measure that aims to prevent waste. Article 6 (1) focuses on single-use beverage containers and stipulates that after the due date in July 2024, they are only allowed to be placed on the market if their plastic caps and lids remain attached to the bottle during the product’s intended use stage. The ordinance aims to reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment and to contribute to the transition to a circular economy.
In November 2021, Coca-Cola Germany introduced new caps for its single-use PET bottles. The caps are tethered to a safety ring on the necks of the bottles. (Image: Coca-Cola Germany)
‘As the world’s largest manufacturer of beverages, Coca-Cola is aware of its responsibility and is using its leverage to promote sustainable change. We have taken the EU directive as an opportunity to optimise our caps as a whole and develop a new solution that saves on material. We continuously work on our packaging and seek new ways of saving material to make it more eco-friendly, in keeping with our sustainability targets.’
Tilmann Rothammer,Managing Director Customer Service & Supply Chain, Coca-Cola European Partners Germany.
This affects beverage containers with a volume of up to three litres, which includes Coca-Cola bottles. By January 2024, the company aims to have successively converted its German plants. The plant in Dorsten will be followed by the single-use PET lines at the company’s Mannheim, Mönchengladbach, Hildesheim and Knetzgau locations. During the conversion, both types of cap will be in circulation for a while.
The new caps will not change the way consumers dispose of them: beverage bottles can still be returned via reverse vending machines. (Image: Coca-Cola Germany)
New caps, same recycling methods
According to company statements, the new caps will not change a thing for consumers: the opening mechanism is the same, and even though the caps are now attached to a safety ring, consumers can still move them around the necks of the bottles at will and even secure them in a specific position – making it easier to pour the beverage. The way the single-use bottles are disposed of also remains the same: consumers can return the bottles via reverse vending machines, as usual. The caps are made out of high density polyethylene (HDPE); during the recycling process, they are detached from the necks of the bottles, collected and used for new products. Upon request, we were informed that the group is working on new technical solutions that will allow them to use this material in the production of new caps and lids, in cooperation with its partners.
The new caps have a further advantage: they optimise the bottles’ material usage and are expected to save up to 1.37 grams of plastic per bottle in total in Germany. Thanks to the deposit system, the material can also be collected and reused; over 90 percent of bottle caps in Germany are already being collected using this method.