Recycle & Upcycle

Everything has a value: How a corporation implements the principle of circular economy, thus protecting resources and saving raw materials…
99 percent. Karolin Övünc is proud of this number. She points to the board hanging above the containers: “Everything has a value.” This was the thought behind it all.
Coca-Cola has been producing at Genshagen near Berlin, in the district of Teltow-Fläming, since 1998. The plant is one of the most modern in the entire Federal Republic and certainly the most water efficient in the company. As with all of Coca-Cola’s bottling plants in Germany, it is run exclusively on energy from renewable sources. On average, 94 percent of the reusable materials generated on the premises covering 158,000 square metres are recycled, as at all of Coca-Cola’s locations in Germany. A good value. But good is sometimes not good enough.
Karolin Övünc has been working for Coca-Cola since 2003. After her training as an industrial manager she began a part-time course to qualify as an industrial engineer. Today, she is in charge of production planning and materials management in Genshagen. In 2015, she took on the pilot project for the circular economy at the Genshagen location, working closely with recycling expert Interseroh.

Coca Cola Deutschland

Bottle tops on the brink – of being used again

Her target: To further optimise the recovery of any reusable materials left over after the production process. Since then Karolin Övünc has identified more than 50 reusable materials, including four types of paper and eight types of foil and plastics. There are more than 300 containers for different reusable materials on the company’s premises and 99 percent of all the production waste is now recycled or upcycled. She has also gotten rid of the words “waste” and “trash”, as the incidence of residues that require thermal recycling has dropped by three quarters. Karolin Övünc and the whole plant are proud of these figures, which have also been certified by bifa, an independent environmental institute.


Save raw materials

Increasing the responsible treatment of resources is a central topic for Coca-Cola. Ulrike Sapiro, the company’s director of sustainability in Europe says: “How would it be if we started to see the collection of reusable materials as a new way of extracting raw materials? Our packaging should not only be lighter and simpler but should also be part of the value chain.”

Coca Cola Deutschland

The good ones go into the pot… recycling containers for different materials

In 2015, Coca-Cola introduced a new form of packaging in Germany made entirely from recycled PET bottles. In other words: a bottle becomes another bottle, without the need for new raw materials, an innovation for which Coca-Cola won the German Packaging Award.
Already, 95 percent of Coca-Cola plastic bottles are recycled in Germany, also thanks to the deposit. Thus, the materials cycle continues to close. “We have already achieved a great deal,” says Ulrike Sapiro. “But our aim is to require even less raw materials, possibly none at all.”
Coca-Cola produces and fills up to 76,000 bottles an hour in Genshagen, around 250 million per year. “Sustainability is a clear area of responsibility for Coca-Cola,” says Karolin Övünc. When she started the project looking for alternative recyclable materials, there was one sentence that she heard particularly often from suppliers and disposal companies: “No-one’s ever asked that.” In the future, this process for optimising the recycling of reusable materials will be adopted by other Coca-Cola plants. A team in Karlsruhe has already started implementing it. And Karolin Övünc looks forward to sharing all the answers she has found in the meantime.■

Photo Credit: Coca-Cola Deutschland

What Next?

Related Articles