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There’s a sustainable future for plastic – and businesses, consumers and governments all need to take action

Ribena unveils major packaging update continuing its sustainability journey

Michelle Norman, Director of Sustainability | Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I

4 min read Partner content

This week, Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I (SBF GB&I) is launching our new Ribena bottle, helping to fully realise the potential for a circular economy.

Ribena’s bottles have been made from 100 per cent recycled material (rPET) since 2007.

Our new design, which removes the plastic wrapping on the bottle’s exterior, eliminates 202 tonnes of plastic annually and creates a bottle that is fully recyclable and optimised for circularity.

In short, there is no reason that it can’t go on to be made back into another bottle.

Designed and tested to work within the current UK recycling infrastructure, the new bottle is a significant step towards achieving SBF GB&I’s ambition to source all our bottles from 100% sustainable materials by 2030.

Our ambition is to help realise a sustainable future for plastic. Plastic is versatile and lightweight, and it offers convenience for consumers. Moreover, the lifetime carbon emissions associated with recycled plastic beverage bottles are lower than those for glass or metal cans.

As a society we have historically used plastic poorly, but we are confident that it’s possible to turn this around and move to a world where plastic is used responsibly.

In order to do so, it is vital that bottles are recycled and that this recycled material is then used to manufacture new bottles in turn – a truly circular system. It’s just one of the reasons why we welcome the introduction of deposit return schemes.

We need to radically boost on-the-go recycling rates in Britain.Shockingly, research from recycling charity RECOUP shows that only 42% of local authorities across the UK provide on-the-go recycling facilities.

Beyond delivering more recycling bins on the high street, the UK needs to invest more money in collection, treatment and processing facilities in order to reach our recycling targets.

It is essential that we all play our part in minimising the waste our society produces.

There is little evidence that revenues raised from packaging manufacturers through the existing system of Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs) are being invested in the recycling infrastructure we need, while the use of Export PRNs simply sends our much-needed supply of recyclate overseas and increases the risk of it being released into the environment.

All of this makes it unnecessarily difficult and costly to secure the supply of high-quality food-grade recycled plastic that we need to produce more sustainable bottles.

Businesses like ours need to invest and innovate, to reduce plastic usage and improve the recyclability of the plastic we use. We need to educate and encourage consumers to recycle – our new Ribena bottles have a series of ‘recycle me’ prompts, for instance. And governments – national and local – need to work together to fund and deliver more recycling facilities.

We believe plans to introduce deposit return schemes will help to significantly improve the situation. Right now, the Scottish Government plans to introduce a scheme in 2022, with England and Wales set to follow suit in 2023/4.

In an ideal world, in order to maximise effectiveness, there should be a single GB-wide scheme. If that’s not possible then we believe the proposed schemes need to be introduced at the same time, and that governments need to work together to ensure their schemes align and are interoperable.

Anything else is a recipe for consumer confusion (not to mention cross-border fraud). Governments should commit now to unredeemed deposits remaining within the scheme and being used to improve the on-the-go recycling infrastructure most parts of the country are still lacking.

Of course, beyond Government action, there is always more that companies can and should be doing to promote sustainability.

To that end, and as part of our Growing for Good vision, we have heightened our ambition to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across our entire supply chain by 2050. We are working to reduce the amount of plastic used in our supply chain, building on the 2,947 tonnes of plastic we have already saved since 2015. And, we are also exploring innovative and alternative sources of material that will in time take us beyond fossil-fuel derived plastic all together.

Right now, it is essential that we all play our part in minimising the waste our society produces.

That is why we have introduced this new bottle, it is why we are engaged with governments to ensure deposit return schemes are as effective as possible, and it is why we are continuing our work on all fronts to ensure a greener, more sustainable future.  

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Read the most recent article written by Michelle Norman, Director of Sustainability - We need a whole-system approach to ensure a sustainable future for plastics that helps deliver net zero


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