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


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 second dedicated article, we take a closer look at packaging reuse, with testimonials from Valentin Fournel (Eco-conception and Reuse Director at CITEO) and Olivier Larose (Sustainable Development Director at Coca-Cola France).

Reuse: where do we stand?

By way of introduction, Valentin Fournel reminds us that there are different types of re-use, depending on whether or not a product is packaged with primary packaging. ” This last category concerns bulk packaging in particular, but bulk packaging itself can be distinguished between bulk where the packaging is going to be re-used by the professional and bulk where the packaging is going to be re-used by the consumer, who will come and bring back his container to then refill it with products. For products presented ‘with primary packaging’, we have refills, which we are all familiar with because they have been on the market for a long time, but also ‘reusable pre-packaged products’ such as deposits, which existed for a long time in France, but which have disappeared in the main”, he adds.

On the question of developing reuse, Valentin Fournel believes that the process is now an important vector for reducing the quantity and environmental impact of packaging, “provided that we succeed in developing a system that is as mutualised as possible, with the least amount of transport and the highest possible rate of return by the consumer” , he adds. For the expert, the different types of reuse are destined to coexist and develop. “In any case, that’s the ambition of the AGEC law, even if it has been somewhat undermined since COVID. The same applies to refilling. And then there’s the reuse of primary packaging, which we developed in 2023 by launching the Free Use initiative, with the whole ecosystem and pioneering companies in the field of reuse, to prefigure this optimised and pooled system on a national scale” , explains Valentin Fournel. The challenge around this initiative is to succeed in reducing the transport distances of the packaging used as much as possible. This involves first and foremost the definition and creation of standardised packaging, enabling the deployment of relatively local loops and thus reducing the impact of reuse. “What we have been able to model is that, in the long term, when the system is mature, with a high number of reused packaging items and extremely high return rates, we will obviously achieve an environmental balance, but also an economic balance […] in other words, we could achieve costs per UVC that are close to those of single use” , says the CITEO representative. The aim is to design and produce the first four references by the end of 2024 (75 cl beer bottle, litre of freshness and 450 millilitre and 720 millilitre jars) in order to activate the underlying systems and, in time, extend this approach to around thirty references.

Case study: reuse at Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola has been looking at reuse for several years now. As Olivier Larose, Director of Sustainable Development at Coca-Cola France, explains, the current objective is to optimise and massively scale up re-use. “In cafés, hotels and restaurants (CHR), Coca-Cola is a long-standing player in returnable glass. In 2022, we have also embarked on a process to convert 5 of our other brands (Fuze Tea, Fanta, Sprite, Minute Maid, Tropico) from single-use glass bottles to generic, standardised, but proprietary returnable glass bottles. A bottle of Fuze Tea will tomorrow be used for Fanta, Sprite, Minute Maid and so on. This makes us the only soft drinks company with a 100% returnable glass brand portfolio in the on-trade. And the initial results are clear to see: with reuse, the same bottle is now used up to 25 times, decarbonising up to 77% of the CO2 emissions emitted during its life cycle.

But as Olivier Larose points out, reuse is also a commercial and logistical challenge. With products distributed through almost 100,000 points of sale, it was necessary to mobilise the entire value chain. “According to IPSOS, 92% of French consumers say they are in favour of the reintroduction of deposits and are waiting for brands to make a commitment. Today, we are conducting live trials in supermarkets, in partnership with 6 chains, in 260 points of sale and 3 regions” , he points out. The primary aim of these experiments is to test consumer perceptions, for whom reuse is not always a tangible reality in supermarkets. “Consumers need to identify and identify with re-use. And to do that, we need to bring it to the fore by giving it visibility on the shelves, but also by associating this approach with an idea of pleasure and an attractive experience” , adds Olivier Larose. He concludes: “We’re proud to be helping to change a consumer society. We’re also proud to be the only ones to be testing a ground-breaking innovation on the French market: reusable returnable PET. This is a type of PET reinforced in some way that can be used up to 15 times, compared with 25 times for glass.

Read also: “[3R] Packaging reduction as seen by CITEO & Coca-Cola France”

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