Coca-Cola Trials Turning Hard-to-Recycle Plastic Into Bottles
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Coca-Cola Trials Turning Hard-to-Recycle Plastic Into Bottles

Coke’s biggest European bottler is backing a new technology that makes food-grade plastic out of landfill-bound waste

Tue, May 16, 2023 8:24amGrey Clock 2 min

Coca-Cola is trialing technology in Europethat turns hard-to-recycle plastic into new bottles, as part of its effort to meet its sustainability goals.

The company’s biggest European bottler, Coca-Cola Europacific Partnersis funding a startup in the Netherlands that will produce food-grade recycled plastic from plastics that usually get sent to landfill or are incinerated—such as films, trays, clothing and colored packaging. It will create an additional source of recycled material. Current supplies of recycled plastic are costly and limited, which is keeping companies hooked on abundant and cheaper oil as a key ingredient in the production of packaging.

“This new technology is critical to improve access to recycled material for bottles,” said Wouter Vermeulen, Coca-Cola’s senior director of sustainability and public policy in Europe. “The Coca-Cola system is committed to reducing our dependency on oil for producing virgin packaging materials and promoting recycling.”

Coca-Cola is aiming to boost the proportion of recycled materials that make up its packaging to 50% by 2030. The soft-drinks group has achieved around 25% so far.

The company needs its bottlers to use more recycled materials to meet its own sustainability goals“We simply do not have the necessary levels [of recycled plastic],” said Joe Franses, vice president of sustainability at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners.

The new process from startup CuRe Technology cleanses and partially breaks down plastics for reassembly into recycled material. Its so-called partial depolymerization method removes color from polyester, turning it into clear polyethylene terephthalate—or PET—pellets.A study commission by CuRe said its process results in roughly 65% lower greenhouse-gas emissions than oil-based new plastic production. Coca-Cola Europacific Partners invested in CuRe in 2020 and again this year.

CuRe has been sending samples to Coca-Cola in Atlanta for testing and, if it continues to meet quality standards, it is possible the recycled plastic could make its way to other markets.

“We are currently focused on scaling CuRe’s technology in the right way for use in Europe as a first priority, before looking at how this could benefit other markets,” Coca-Cola’s Mr. Vermeulen said.

By 2025, a plant is expected to produce around 25,000 metric tons of recycled plastic a year. Coca-Cola Europacific Partners will get a significant amount of that output but it will represent a fraction of its feedstock, currently around 200,000 metric tons of polyester a year in Europe. If the factory meets expectations, the bottler will build a larger plant before the end of the decade.

Packaging represents around 40% of Coca-Cola Europacific Partners’ carbon footprint, largely because of its use of oil-based virgin plastic. It aims to stop using oil to produce plastic bottles by 2030. Last year, almost half of its bottles were made from recycled plastic and bioplastics.

By the turn of the next decade, Mr. Franses at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners envisions technology such as CuRe’s supplying around 25% of the bottling company’s needs while traditional recycling methods will satisfy about 70%. He hopes recycled plastic supplied by CuRe’s method to be on par or not significantly more expensive than current recycled plastic, which can be 50% more costly than plastic made from oil.

“I’m not going to stand here in 2023 and say we’ve got a full road map that is going to take us there,” Mr. Franses said. “What I am really confident on is that the business has made the right investments.”


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Car Dealers on Why Some Customers Hesitate With EVs

Concern about electric vehicles’ appeal is mounting as some customers show a reluctance to switch

Mon, Dec 11, 2023 4 min

Auto dealers across many parts of the country say electric vehicles are becoming too hard a sell for buyers worried about the range, reliability and price of these models.

When Paul LaRochelle heard Ford Motor was coming out with an electric pickup truck, the dealer was excited about the prospects for his business.

“We thought we could build a million of them and sell them,” said LaRochelle, a vice president at Sheehy Auto Stores, which sells vehicles from a dozen brands in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

The reality has been less positive. On Sheehy’s car lots, LaRochelle says there is a six- to 12-month supply of EVs, compared with a month of gasoline-powered vehicles.

With automakers set to release a barrage of new electric models in the coming years, concerns are mounting among auto retailers about whether the technology will have broader appeal given that many customers are still reluctant to make the switch.

Battery-powered models have been piling up on car lotsdealers say, as EV sales growth has slowed in the U.S. this year. Car companies have been offering a combination of discounts and lower interest-rate deals in an effort to juice demand. But it hasn’t been enough, because buyer reticence extends beyond the price tag, dealers say.

“I’m not hearing the consumer confidence in the technology,” said Mary Rice, dealer principal at Toyota of Greensboro in North Carolina. “People aren’t beating down the door to buy these things, and they all have a different excuse why they aren’t buying one.”

Customers cite concerns about vehicles burning through a battery charge faster in cold weather or not being able to travel as far as they expected on a single charge, dealers say. Potential buyers also worry that chargers aren’t as readily accessible as gas stations or might be broken.

Franchise dealerships fear that the push to roll out new models will inundate them with hard-to-sell vehicles. Research firm S&P Global Mobility said there are 56 EV models for sale in the U.S. this year, and the number is expected to nearly double to 100 next year.

“I start to think, you know maybe we should just all pump the brakes a little bit,” Rice said.

A group of dealers expressed their concerns about the government’s role in pushing electric vehicles in a letter last month to President Biden.

A Toyota Motor spokesman said the majority of dealers have become “increasingly more confident in their ability to sell Toyota EV products.”

At Ford, the company’s electric-vehicle sales are rising, including for its F-150 Lightning pickup, but demand isn’t evenly spread across the country, according to a spokesman.

Dealers say that after selling an EV, they sometimes hear complaints about charging and the vehicles not always meeting their advertised range. In some cases, customers seek to return them to the dealer shortly after buying them.

“We have a steady number of clients that have attempted to or flat out returned their car,” said Sheehy’s LaRochelle.

While EVs remain a small but rapidly expanding part of the new-car market, the pace of growth has slowed this year. Electric-vehicle sales increased 48% in the first 11 months, compared with a 69% jump during the same period in 2022, according to Motor Intelligence. Sales remain concentrated in a few states, with California accounting for the largest chunk, S&P Global Mobility data found.

The cooling growth has raised broader questions in the industry about whether car companies face a temporary hurdle or a longer-term demand challenge. Automakers have invested billions of dollars to bring more EV models to the market, and many analysts and car executives say they remain optimistic that sales will continue to expand.

“Although the rate of growth has slowed recently, EV demand is clearly moving in the right direction,” said General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra on a recent conference call with analysts. A combination of more affordable model options and better charging infrastructure would help encourage more people to buy electric vehicles, she said.

There are also varying views within the dealer community about how quickly buyers will adopt the technology.In hot spots for electric-vehicle demand, such as Los Angeles, dealers say their battery-powered models are some of their top sellers. Those popular EV markets also tend to have more mature public charging networks.

Selling an electric car or truck outside of those demand centres is proving more difficult.

Longtime EV owner Carmella Roehrig thought she was ready to go full-electric and sold her backup gasoline vehicle. But after the 62-year-old North Carolina resident found herself stranded last year in a rural area of South Carolina, she changed her mind. Roehrig’s Tesla Model S got a flat tire, but none of the stores in the area carried tires for a Tesla. She ended up paying a worker at a nearby shop to drive her home.

Roehrig still has her Tesla but bought a pickup truck for long road trips.

Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“I have these conversations with people who say we’ll all be in EVs in 15 years. I say: ‘I’m not so sure. I’ve tried to do it,’” Roehrig said. “I think you need a gas backup.”

Customers who want to ditch their gas vehicle for environmental reasons are sometimes hesitant, said Mickey Anderson, president of Baxter Auto Group, which owns dealerships in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.

“We’re in the Colorado Springs market. If this is your sole mode of transportation, and you’re in a market in extremes of elevation and temperature, the actual range is very limited,” Anderson said. “It makes it extremely impractical.”

Dealers representing around 4,000 stores across the U.S. signed the letter in November addressed to Biden, saying the administration’s proposed auto-emissions regulations designed to promote electric-vehicle sales are unrealistic. The signatories ranged from stores owned by family businesses to publicly held giants such as AutoNation and Lithia Motors.

“Some customers are in the market for electric vehicles, and we are thrilled to sell them. But the majority of customers are simply not ready to make the change,” the letter said.

Some carmakers are pushing back EV-rollout plans. GM said in mid-October that it would delay the opening of an electric pickup plant by a year to late 2025. In response to weaker-than-expected consumer demand, Ford said in late October that it would defer $12 billion of planned spending on electric-vehicle investment.

Since September, dealers on average took more than two months to sell an EV, compared with 40 days for all vehicles, according to car-shopping website Edmunds.

While discounts have helped boost sales of some electric vehicles, they also have led to repercussions for some current owners because it reduces the value of their vehicles, dealers say.

“Most people don’t have the confidence to buy an EV and know what it will be worth in 10-15 years,” said Rice from the Toyota dealership.

It may take some time for the industry to adjust because it is still in an early stage of switching to electric vehicles, Sheehy’s LaRochelle said.

“We’re asking for this market to grow organically,” he said.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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