NBC, Coca Cola embark on research for chewable bottles

As part of the interim solution to the environmental crisis of plastic bottles proliferation in Nigeria, the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC), a member of the Coca Cola Hellenic Group, has upped its target to recover and recycle plastic bottles introduced into the environment by 40 per cent in 2020 from 25 per cent of the previous goal.

In a 64-page Sustainability Report launched in Lagos recently, the organization also plans to re-use 20 per cent of recycled plastic bottles by next year.

But speaking during the event, Mrs. Nwamaka Onyemelukwe, the Public Affairs & Communications Manager, Coca Cola, Nigeria, said that the main goal of the company was to increase the biodegradability of plastic bottles in the nearest future.

“The expectation is that we will have bottles that are biodegradable so that you can enjoy the content and chew the bottle.

“We are currently investing hugely in research and innovation to make our packaging more environmental friendly.

“Today, we have PETs [plastic bottles] that are 30 per cent plant bottle and we expect that as we make progress with our research that we will get to a stage where you can drink Coca Cola and chew the bottle,” she said.

Meanwhile, about 2 billion bottles made of polyethylene terephathalate (PET) are released into the Nigerian market annually for an average consumer population of 200 million people, according to the report.

These plastic bottles, which cannot be digested by living organisms, end up on the coastlines increasing the toxic chemicals, harming wildlife and man vicariously. Plastic bottle are currently the 5th most commonly found trash items in the world, according to a recent finding.

Admitting the scale of the problem, Mrs. Ifeoma Okoye, The Sustainability and Community Affairs Manager, Nigerian Bottling Company, explained to Saturday Tribune after the event the renewed commitment of NBC to reducing plastic bottles proliferation on the streets and coastlines in Nigeria.

“The scale of the problem,” she said, “isn’t what a single company can do; we work in partnership with other companies under the alliance called the Food and Beverage Alliance (FBA).

“FBA is made up of eight multinationals among which are Nestle, Guinness and 7Up. We are working with our competitors because we needed to pull enough resources together. The cost of retrieving the plastics is very expensive and for it to also be recycled and used not only for other products but also as bottles for packaging is also a very expensive process.

“So far, we have been able to pick up a number of PET – Plastic bottles – from the streets. Our target is total packaging recovery, so whether it is the cork, the shrink wrap, the carton, we want to recover everything and then recycle them. When the next sustainability report comes out for 2018/2019 we will be talking about the figures we have been able to achieve.”

Speaking about the role of members of the public towards plastic bottle deposing, she said, ”This work is also not what a company or group can achieve.

“In other climes, no one company is able to successfully achieve full recycling of bottles; everyone plays a role including the individuals also have a role to play here also.

“What are you doing to separate your waste? People muddle their wastes up. Once PET (plastic bottles) is muddled up with other organic waste it contaminates them, making them more expensive to clean up and use. So, people need to understand that that their role in making our environment free of plastics and other non-biodegradable wastes.

“This is why we engage different approaches in our work. We have an advocacy approach, where try to sensitise people about their responsibility to the environment. We know that NBC even with the alliance cannot do this without the full buy-in of members of the public. We try to encourage people to discriminate their waste right from their kitchens. Plastic wastes should be put separately from food wastes. It will facilitate easy recovery and everyone complies we might even overshot our 2020 target which is to retrieve 40 per cent of what we put in the environment.”

She also called on emerging entrepreneur to also eye plastic bottle recovering as a business venture.

“We also work with the Recyclers Association of Nigeria. They are involved in this as well. And we also encourage SMEs. As long as you know you can do this, come on board. “