IIEA and Coca-Cola release white paper on advancing circular economy for packaging

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The white paper provides key recommendations to eliminate waste by accelerating the development of a circular economy for plastic packaging



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7 June 2024

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The Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) and Coca-Cola Ireland have jointly published a white paper with a series of recommendations aimed at advancing the circular economy for packaging. The circular economy is an important model of production and consumption, which involves reducing packaging waste to a minimum to support sustainability goals.

The white paper entitled ‘Closing the Loop: Advancing the Circular Economy for Packaging’ was developed following a Real Talk roundtable hosted by the IIEA. The roundtable brought together leading experts from Irish civil society, policymaking, the civil service, academia, NGOs, and industry, for a discussion about how to make the circular economy for packaging a reality across Ireland.

Part of a series of forums facilitated by Coca-Cola across Europe, Real Talk aims to foster open and honest discussions among stakeholders around sustainability goals. The roundtable was the second Real Talk event facilitated by Coca-Cola Ireland focused on sustainability.

Key recommendations from the white paper include:

  1. Increasing focus on the opportunities emerging from the circular economy: Increase attention on the opportunities unlocked by the circular economy by considering the creation of a dedicated senior minister with responsibility for the circular economy.
  2. A sectoral approach to Government policy: Government needs to advance a sectoral approach to policy on the circular economy. This includes the development of individual sectoral strategies focused on plastic packaging waste streams within each sector of the economy and how to make them more circular.
  3. Enhancing recycling and reprocessing capacity: Strengthening Ireland’s recycling and reprocessing capacity and infrastructure to help develop an all-island circular economy for plastic packaging. An all-island circular economy would allow products to be recycled and reused without leaving the island.
  4. Greater information sharing to generate ‘buy-in’: Greater information sharing is proposed to ensure that all businesses in the food and drink sector are bought into the circular economy, particularly SMEs who may lack resources or expertise to develop more sustainable packaging.
  5. Incentivising the ‘re-use’ model as part of Ireland’s circularity mix:  Promoting a gradual shift to re-usable and refillable containers offers a clear path to ensure that materials are kept in use at their highest value and could help close the packaging loop in the long-term.

The publication of the white paper comes as the Government has committed to meeting 2025 and 2030 recycling targets for plastic of 50% and 55% respectively while the EU Single Use Plastic Directive includes a separate target of collecting 77% of plastic bottles for recycling by 2025 – increasing to 90% by the end of the decade.

Alex White, director general, IIEA, said: “The paper being released today follows on from a roundtable discussion hosted by the IIEA, which provided a forum for discussion and debate on how best to tackle climate change. It is clear the Circular Economy offers enormous potential for Ireland to meet its EU and national climate objectives and allows every single one of us to play our part in making it a success. However, it demands that everyone – industry, government, NGO’s and individuals know, understand, and act on their responsibilities in this enormous undertaking.”

Agnese Filippi, Country Manager of Coca-Cola Ireland, said: “As one of the world’s largest drinks companies, we must continually challenge ourselves to drive positive change. That includes ensuring that packaging has more than one life. Through our ambitious World Without Waste Strategy, we aim to collect for recycling or reuse, one bottle or can for every one we sell. However, achieving that goal cannot be achieved without the development of a circular economy for plastic packaging.

“That is why we worked with the IIEA on the recent Real Talk roundtable which brought together a wide range of stakeholders for an open and honest discussion on advancing the circular economy for packaging. The new roundtable white paper provides valuable new insights that will guide industry and Government to close the loop for packaging within Ireland’s food and drink sector and make packaging waste a problem of the past.”

Read more: New €20 million Monster canning line opened at Coca-Cola HBC’s production facility



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