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By Horticultural Trades Association

A big step forwards towards a more circular packaging economy

Stephen Moorhouse, Vice President and General Manager

Stephen Moorhouse, Vice President and General Manager | Coca-Cola Europacific Partners

3 min read Partner content

The first month of the year has already seen significant progress for the sustainability agenda.

Last week, the Government announced proposals for a deposit return scheme (DRS) for packaging in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to be introduced from 1st October 2025.

At CCEP, we welcome the decision, which marks a real step-change for the industry and our collective efforts to address one of the biggest challenges we face: waste.

We’ve been striving to reduce packaging waste for many years, and we’re determined to make sure our cans and bottles don’t end up where they shouldn’t. We also recognise that the energy and materials used to produce that packaging make a significant contribution to our carbon emissions. So, making and using less is a key part of our journey to become a net zero operation.

Today, we use 100% recycled plastic in our 500ml bottles, but we need to make sure we have access to greater quality and quantity of recycled materials, so we can continue to supply Coca-Cola bottles and cans in a responsible and sustainable way. An effective DRS will create circularity for our bottles and cans, so it plays a huge part in helping us to realise this commitment.  

By providing a small financial incentive to return their packaging, the scheme will encourage consumers to return and recycle their drinks containers. This will not only help to reduce litter on our streets, but will also provide higher quality, uncontaminated recyclable material that can be turned into new packaging.

From our experience in other markets in Europe, we know these schemes are successful at ensuring large amounts of packaging are collected and recycled, and thus supporting the circular economy.

As well as using recycled materials in our bottles and cans, we’ve also introduced several other sustainable packaging initiatives in Great Britain. We recently became the first soft drinks provider to start manufacturing plastic bottles with attached caps, where the lid remains attached to the bottle, preventing it from being discarded or thrown away separately. Attached caps will be rolled out across all our plastic bottles manufactured at our sites in Great Britain by the end of 2024. We are also swapping hard-to-recycle shrink wrap with cardboard outers on our multi-packs, and light-weighting our bottles and cans to reduce our use of virgin materials and cut the carbon footprint of our packaging.

All of these efforts are helping to accelerate our path towards a world without waste. DRS represents a real marker on this journey, helping to reduce our reliance on virgin plastic even further and delivering environmental benefits.

2023 will be a crucial year for DRS, with Scotland’s scheme due to go live in August. We’ve been working closely with the Scottish Government and industry groups for some time to help make this happen, and will continue to work closely with all stakeholders to ensure the scheme is as successful as possible.

The risk we now face is that different schemes may appear in different parts of Great Britain, creating operational complexities for businesses, confusion for consumers and a sub-optimal outcome for the environment. That’s why we believe it’s critical that Governments and industry work together to ensure the schemes are complementary and fully interoperable, so that we can unlock the full potential of DRS. We are prepared to play our part in that process and look forward to collaborating with other likeminded businesses as we look to close the loop on packaging.

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