A commitment to sustainability and respect for the environment are not sufficient to combat the amount of waste that ends up in our seas and oceans. It is estimated that some twenty tonnes a day are dumped into our waters. Three-quarters of this waste is deposited on the seabed. A fact that, although it isn’t as visible, is equally important. In this context, the Coca-Cola Company is aware of the need to improve the management of its packaging and waste.
The soft drinks giant with the highest sales volume in the world has been implementing projects on sustainable packaging and recycling. As Gabriel Mulet, Coca-Cola’s manager of communications Coca-Cola European Partners Iberia in the Balearic Islands, states, “we aim to recover 100% of the packaging we deliver to the market and ensure that it goes through the correct processing to be able to reintroduce it back into the value chain by 2020.”
“Nowadays, it seems inconceivable for a company not to operate in an environmentally-sound way,” Mulet confesses. The intention of the Mares Circulares (Circular Seas) project, financed by the Coca-Cola Foundation, is to collaborate in the cleaning of beaches, marine reserves and the seabed, and to run awareness-raising campaigns among the public and supported scientific studies on matters concerning circular economy. Specifically, these actions have covered 72 beaches on the coasts of the Iberian Peninsula, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, covering a total of 270 kilometres of coastline. For the company “it is very satisfying that almost half of these beaches, 32 in total, are on our islands where over 15 tonnes of waste has been collected so far.”
Mulet points out that 15 municipalities in Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza “have offered to participate through numerous associations such as diving clubs, sailing clubs or young people’s leisure associations,” adding that it “sends a clear message that this is a ‘winning’ project and that all of us “form part of the environmental solution, not just the institutions and companies.” Coca-Cola is happy to announce that “the number of volunteers has doubled with respect to last year, to over 1,500,” and considers that “90% of the volunteers are young people aged between 14 and 18.”
Other global figures that highlight the impact of the Balearic coastline project are actions on 32 beaches in municipalities such as Palma, Alcudia, Calvià, Santanyí, Campos, Felanitx, Andratx, Llucmajor, Ses Salines, Ciutadella, Sant Antoni de Portmany and Santa Eulalia, as well as collaborating teams in the Cala Ratjada reserve with a specific participation of 32 volunteers. In addition, different citizen awareness-raising activities have been carried out, aimed at 308 students and 16 teachers in two secondary centres and in Calvià. Other educational actions took place on the four busiest tourist beaches, with workshops and recycling campaigns, reaching a total of 1,790 people.
“We believe that Circular Seas is an integrated project because it has a space devoted to volunteering and training on recycling and household waste management, to ensure that it doesn’t end up littering our coasts, and it also has a practical element, offering first-hand knowledge about our coasts, which should be in a much better state,” Mulet says. “We also consider this to be a circular project because a series of data are collected, which provide information on the health of our coasts, allowing us to improve them.” He also adds that they have made “a firm commitment to separating all the PET plastic containers and recycling them in order to reincorporate them again as new merchandise of the brand.”
Referring to all these initiatives, Mulet stresses, “our company has two strategic commitments: reducing the weight of containers and at the same time the percentage of the plastic raw material, making them more sustainable.” Another of the multinational’s objectives with respect to Circular Seas is to “make this project last, at least until 2025, because the great clean-up and the willingness of all involved are what drive us to give continuity to this strategic line.” This is proven by the fact that, within this initiative in favour of a circular economy, Coca-Cola in Spain will be encouraging university research into marine sustainability and will be launching the first edition of a competition to provide seed capital of €5,000 for a start-up focused on finding solutions to environmental problems generated by waste in marine environments.
Pau Ferragut / DM – CocaCola