[3R] Packaging reduction as seen by CITEO & Coca-Cola France


On 27 March, ALL4PACK EMBALLAGE PARIS organised a webinar on regulatory changes in the field of packaging. This was an opportunity for participants to discover the “3R” strategies (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) of the participating companies. In this, our first dedicated article, we take a closer look at packaging reduction, with testimonials from Valentin Fournel (Eco-conception and Reuse Director at CITEO) and Olivier Larose (Sustainable Development Director at Coca-Cola France).

Reduction: how does it work?

As Valentin Fournel, CITEO’s Eco-design and Reuse Director, points out, reducing packaging waste has historically meant making packaging lighter. This generally results in a reduction in the raw materials used, and therefore a reduction in costs for manufacturers. However, new regulatory frameworks, such as the AGEC law, are now forcing companies to go even further by activating other levers, such as using less packaging. ” The right question is “what can we do without”, starting with grouping packaging, which is not used for transport, but only for merchandising and shelf display”, explains the expert. This is a situation that should lead companies to question the usefulness of packaging functionality. Valentin Fournel cites as an example the famous cucumber pullers that can be seen in gherkin jars, whose functionality can be replaced by a simple pair of gherkin tongs.

Another lever that Valentin Fournel believes can be used to reduce packaging is large-format packaging. “With changes in consumption patterns, the evolution of families, their size and composition, we’ve moved towards much larger portions, perhaps sometimes to extremes. So it might be a good idea to go back to large formats, especially for products that have a fairly long shelf life once the packaging has been opened. Other levers favoured by CITEO include :

  • Flexible formats, which significantly reduce the weight of the packaging. However, as Valentin Fournel points out, “we need to ensure that they remain recyclable, which in any case is becoming a prerequisite with the new regulations”.
  • Develop the product, for example by adopting solid, more concentrated products. While this may seem to be a departure from the other levers, it nevertheless makes it possible to reduce the “portion of use” and therefore the packaging.

However, in addition to the examples cited above, the CITEO representative invited the audience to consider the notion of fair packaging. ” Let’s take the example of a tube of toothpaste.

Let’s take the example of a tube of toothpaste to which we add a case, for visibility on the shelf and communication with the consumer rather than for protection. The simplest thing would be to do away with the sleeve. The problem is that some manufacturers may have tried this, but lost market share in the process! That’s why it might be better to think in terms of more effective actions.

Case study: reduction at Coca-Cola

At the same time, Olivier Larose, Director of Sustainable Development at Coca-Cola France, looks back at the packaging reduction strategies put in place by the brand. “In our 3R strategy, reduction remains the top priority” , he explains. This has resulted in a 21% reduction in the tonnage of PET marketed in France. ” I don’t think we’ll be able to go any further than that, as we run the risk of jeopardising the product’s use-by date and, in particular, the fact that the gas is preserved. We’re still talking about gaseous products, with packaging that still has to retain its shape. You don’t want to have a bottle that turns into a rugby ball at the end” , explains the specialist. He highlights other elements at the heart of the company’s reduction strategy:

  • Solidarity caps, which, while a European obligation, have enabled Coca-Cola to work in all the European countries in which the brand operates to work on the weight of the cap as well as the amount of material used for the neck of the bottle. “With this transition, we’re looking at a reduction of around 1,500 tonnes of plastic per year in France alone!
  • Substitution, with the replacement of the PE can grouping film with a new cardboard-based solution. “It was a huge R&D job, but above all it was a huge job for all the supply chain teams. It was very complicated to implement, but we believed in it because we know that it’s a long-term ambition. Now it’s working, and in France we’ve saved around 680 tonnes of plastic every year. So once again, it’s very significant” , says Olivier Larose.
  • The deployment of fountains, with almost 4,500 of this type already deployed on the French market (representing around 10% of the brand’s volumes) ” We’re lucky enough to have the Olympic Games this year, which will enable us to deploy 700 additional fountains to, once again, contribute to ‘packaging-free’ and have the greenest possible Olympic Games” , he concludes.

Read also: [3R] CITEO & Coca-Cola France look at packaging reuse

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