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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Coors, City of London Put Waste to Work with New Recycling Schemes

New programs, initiatives and innovations that drive forward the transition to a circular company seem to be popping up almost daily. The latest to pick up the banner for the circular cause? Coors Light and the City of London Corporation.

Coors Light, a MillerCoors brand, is shining light on its sustainability achievements and goals with a new twist on its ongoing “Climb On” campaign and the roll out of “Every One Can,” a summer promotional campaign, which includes the conversion of its billboards into beer coolers and its kegs into barbeque grills, as well as a large-scale push to get drinkers to recycle beer cans.

According to senior marketing director, Elina Vives, Coors has long pursued sustainability goals at the corporate level, but “just haven’t talked about it.” By highlighting its environmental credentials, the brand hopes to win over consumers that, according to consumer research, favor environmentally friendly brands. Sixty-six percent of consumers say they are willing to pay more for sustainable brands, up from 55% in 2014 and 50% in 2013, according to the latest Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability report published in late 2015. Packaged goods giant Unilever recently did its own study and found that there is an untapped opportunity of around $1 trillion in sales globally for "sustainable goods."

Coors Light marketers tested their sustainability ad and promotional campaign concepts with consumers before moving forward. “They saw it as positive news for the brand,” Vives added. “They saw it as a fresh approach, especially in the American light lager segment.”

Several months ago, the brand began storing the vinyl material used to make its advertising billboards, rather than sending it to landfills. With the help of TerraCycle, Coors is now using the material to make cooler bags for beer, which they plan to give away to consumers in states where that is legal. Each bag bears a tag that reads, “I used to be a billboard.”

The brewer is also transforming damaged beer kegs into barbecue grills that will be used for in-store marketing displays. The agency behind the promotional campaign is Leo Burnett’s shopper marketing agency, Arc, as well as the brewer’s PR agency Olson. Coors Light plants to roll out the “Every One Can” program with TV ads this summer.

In January 2015, MillerCoors announced the completion of a 3.2 megawatt capacity solar panel installation at its brewery in Irwindale, Calif. The following year, the company reported that all of its major breweries had reached landfill-free status, meaning that no glass, paperboard, plastics or metal waste are sent to landfills. Any remaining non-reusable or recyclable brewery waste is sent to a waste-to-energy facility.

Meanwhile, the City of London continues the crusade against disposable coffee cups. Teaming up with Network Rail and local coffee chains, the City of London Corporation is introducing dedicated coffee cup recycling facilities in offices, shops and streets.

Every day in the UK, seven million coffee cups are thrown away; only 1 percent of these cups are thought to be recycled. This is due in part to the cups’ plastic film lining.

Previous cup recycling schemes — including one in Manchester spearheaded by environmental charity Hubbub, in which 20,000 cups were recycled from one street over three months — have been conducted on a much smaller scale. Under the Square Mile challenge, the City of London Corporation hopes to recycle half a million cups in April. Wendy Mead, chair of the corporation’s environmental committee, said that the City “will be the first area in the UK to undertake such a significant commitment.”

The first 30 businesses with more than 500 employees to sign up for the Square Mile challenge will receive a free year’s membership to collection services provided by Simply Cups, while all other businesses involved can access discounted rates for collections. The coffee cups collected can be remade into a variety of items such as pencils and park benches, which will be donated to local community projects and schools.

Costa, Pret a Manger and McDonald’s are already working with Simply Cups, who has been collecting coffee cups from some of their stores on a trial basis. Last month, Costa announced it was expanding its recycling trial scheme, collecting used cups in its 2,000 stores, which are picked up by Veolia to be recycled at a specialized plant. Starbucks has also hopped aboard the cup recycling bandwagon, trialing a fully recyclable coffee cupFrugalpac — which has the potential to divert significant numbers of cups away from landfill.

“It’s fantastic that big businesses are supporting the Square Mile challenge. Large numbers of coffee cups are binned in offices as people arrive at work or pop out for coffees throughout the day. We’d like to see responsible disposal of these become as commonplace as paper recycling schemes in offices and we hope that seeing the products that can be produced from their recycled cups will help motivate city workers to support the recycling effort,” said Peter Goodwin, director of Simply Cups.

Campaigners have called on government to take action in response to the 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups thrown away every year, but ministers have brushed off the suggestion, claiming that private companies are already doing enough. Environment minister Thérèse Coffey told the Liberal Democrats, who have urged the government to impose a 5p charge similar to that levied on plastic bags, that industry and chains were already doing enough voluntarily to curb waste.