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New Alliances Aim to Chip Away at Plastics Pollution in Africa, UK

Coca-Cola, Diageo, Nestlé, Unilever spearhead Africa Plastics Recycling Alliance

Image credit: Diageo/Twitter

The Coca Cola Company, Diageo, Nestlé and Unilever this morning launched the Africa Plastics Recycling Alliance (APRA) at the CEO Africa Forum in Kigali, Rwanda. This Alliance aims to turn the challenge of plastic waste in Sub-Saharan Africa into an opportunity to create jobs and commercial activity by improving the collection and recycling of plastics — much like organizations such as Thread and The Plastic Bank have done in Haiti and PepsiCo is working to do in South America. The APRA has been established for companies to:

  • Facilitate and support their local subsidiaries to engage proactively in market-level public-private partnerships, industry collaboration and alliances

  • Share knowledge, encourage innovation and collaborate on technical and other solutions appropriate for Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as participate in local pilot initiatives

  • Engage with the investment community, policy-makers and others to accelerate the development and financing of the necessary waste management infrastructure and systems.

“Plastics will remain an important packaging material if we are to give African consumers the safe and affordable products they need. However, we need to ensure that used packaging does not end up as litter,” the founding companies said in a statement. “Unfortunately, a lack of collection and recycling capacity in many African markets coupled with growing populations is creating a growing problem of plastics waste. We see an opportunity to tackle that problem in a way that creates jobs and reduces dependency on imported materials while alternatives to plastics are developed. Collaboration within and across markets will be key to success so we are proud to launch the Africa Plastics Recycling Alliance today to increase those efforts and play our part as companies in finding solutions that work for Africa.”

All four companies have individual commitments to rein in their own plastics waste, and are signatories to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment; the APRA augments existing private-sector initiatives to tackle plastic pollution in Sub-Saharan Africa, such as GRIPE (Ghana Recycling Initiative by Private Enterprises) and FBRA (The Food & Beverage Recycling Alliance), in Nigeria, and will aim to develop unique solutions in order to address the region’s unique challenges.

As Gabriel Opoku-Asare, Head of Society at Diageo Africa, told Beverage Daily: "Any initiatives we develop under this collaboration will aim to have comprehensive plans, will be appropriate to the local context and will be consistent with the principles of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment."

TerraCycle, Hi-Cone partner on ring carrier recycling

Image credit: TerraCycle

Meanwhile, Hi-Cone — a global manufacturer of ring carriers for the beverage industry — has become the first non-branded company worldwide to partner with TerraCycle.

According to the British Plastics Federation, items such as ring carriers are collected and recycled by very few local authorities in the UK; through their initiative, Hi-Cone and TerraCycle have therefore decided to lead the effort to tailor recycling techniques to individual waste streams, starting in the UK, ensuring that ring carriers can be collected and recycled, and have a new life after use, as products such as park benches, outdoor furniture and composite lumber.  

While companies including E6PR and Carlsberg have developed sustainable solutions to the standard plastic carrier rings — which are hard to recycle and can even be dangerous to animals — their technologies have yet to be adopted by the beverage industry at large. The TerraCycle-Hi-Note initiative aims to create a UK-wide network of public-access ring carrier recycling points — consumers can search online for their nearest dedicated collection point, or can sign up as a private collector and download postage-paid mailing labels to send their used ring carriers to TerraCycle for recycling.

“We are extremely excited to be launching this new initiative with TerraCycle, which means that our product is now fully recyclable in the UK,” said Hi-Cone president Kenneth Escoe. “It is vital that packaging producers take the lead in pushing sustainable programmes forward, and that is why we have stepped in at this stage of our own journey to champion this process with TerraCycle. We will be monitoring the progress of this initiative very closely as it rolls out in the UK, and will then assess the possibility of widening its scope further into Europe, the US and beyond.”