Coca-Cola Philippines to build its 1st plastic bottle recycling plant in SE Asia

06, Dec. 2019

MANILA, NNA – The bottling arm of U.S. beverage maker Coca-Cola Co. in the Philippines will begin construction of a food-grade recycling plant next year, its first such facility in Southeast Asia, as the country continues to face plastic waste concerns.

Win Everhart, president and general manager of Coca-Cola Far East Ltd., a Philippine unit of the U.S. carbonated drink maker, told NNA on Thursday that the 1 billion pesos ($19.7 million) recycling facility is set for groundbreaking in January next year. It will have an annual processing capacity of 16,000 tons.

The plant is expected to be built somewhere in the Luzon region. The president, however, refused to provide further details about the facility.

The new plant will collect, sort and clean used polyethylene terephthalate (PETs) plastic bottles and turn them into new ones.

“It’s our commitment to the Philippines. We don’t believe all polyethylene terephthalate (PETs) are created equal, we don’t believe PETs are single use,” Everhart said on the sidelines of an industry forum in Manila.

Coca-Cola launched last year its program called “World Without Waste,” through which it aims “to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030.”

The U.S. firm has 19 manufacturing plants in the Philippines and has been present in the country for over a century now.

Everhart noted the company decided to build its first Southeast Asia recycling plant in the Philippines as announced in June because of its economic environment, saying “It might be a very ripe place to invest.”

He added that Coca-Cola, which has been named as the biggest plastic polluter by an environmental group, has plans to open similar facilities in Southeast Asia, but refused to say where.

A 2015 study from Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment said the Philippines ranked as the third-highest source of ocean plastic pollution.

Citing the same report, environment secretary Roy Cimatu said at the forum Thursday that the Philippines produces an estimated 2.7 million metric tons of plastic waste and half a million metric tons of plastic waste leakage annually, behind only China and Indonesia, countries with much bigger populations.

Also, while the total number of plastic bottles such as PETs disposed of in the Philippines remains unknown, a 2019 study from the environmental group Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives found that Filipinos dispose of about 60 billion sachets and 17.5 billion plastic bags yearly.

It also noted the recycling sector in the country is underdeveloped.

“Island cities and provinces and other remote areas either do not have recycling infrastructure or lack access to recycling markets, so that even if a certain material is technically recyclable (such as PET or glass bottles), they have very little value (or no value) in remote areas where transport will add significantly to the cost of recycling,” it said.

In a separate phone interview with NNA, environment undersecretary Benny Antiporda said there are no regulations yet on recycling PET bottles in the country. “What we aim for is for the PET bottles not to be mixed up with the residuals,” said Antiporda, noting the country’s recycling policy is focused on proper segregation of waste.

Meanwhile, he noted that the Philippine’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources is coordinating with corporations, particularly multinational ones like Coca-Cola, to implement a buyback scheme for their plastic materials. He refused to elaborate, but said they are hoping to fully implement it within next year.

“I can see it would be successful. But we need the cooperation of the people by means of taking care of their recyclables” to properly segregate them or avoid contamination with the plastic materials, he said.

Coca-Cola plastic bottles in the Philippines, a country known as a “sachet economy.”
Coca-Cola plastic bottles in the Philippines, a country known as a “sachet economy.”