Closing the circle8 September 2011
Patrick McGuirk is European recycling director for Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE). He tells Joanne Hunter his plans to help the business recover the equivalent of 100% of the packaging placed onto its European markets by 2020
What is Coca-Cola Enterprises doing as a responsible manufacturer to deal with the billions of bottles and cans of drink consumed in Europe? Packaging Today asked Patrick McGuirk, the man responsible for introducing the new ‘CCE way’ of working on recovery and recycling. He is recruiting campaign ‘captains’ from CCE’s external industry partners and their ‘troop members’ are everybody that chugs down a Coke and is left with an empty bottle in their hand.
Patrick is 18 months into a role focused on infrastructure development and systems to channel those empty drinks bottles into new ones.
Analysis of post-consumer, investing in programmes and intervention are being focused on the UK, primarily because of its disparate waste management systems, compared with, for example, Belgium’s widely applauded integrated system run by Fostplus,
The real challenge is for PET in the UK, where just one-third of bottles put on the market are recycled, says Patrick. CCE has invested £5 million in a new reprocessing plant in the east of England to more than double UK production of food-grade recycled PET. The resulting rPET bottles will be sold on UK shelves. The Lincolnshire plant will supply CCE with enough high quality rPET to achieve its target of including 25% rPET in all its plastics-based packaging in the UK by 2012, Patrick confirms.
But what CCE has done in Lincolnshire would not suit Nordic countries. “Intervening in the right way is key.” There has been investment in ‘bring’ schemes in Austria, for example. “It’s a different conversation in every capital of Europe,” but always the waste management sector and regulatory regime are interdependent.
“Our new projects are looking to scale up cradle to cradle initiatives and no part of the value chain can be seen in isolation.”
In the ‘on the go’ category, France is recycling 75% of PET bottles, whereas the UK is sending two-thirds to landfill. “It’s something that CCE is looking to fix by working with the right partners.”
A’ three-pillar’ strategy involves the value chain from when the consumer buys a bottle to when the bottle is reprocessed and comes back to CCE.
First: target moves to help change behaviour. CCE has developed a reward scheme suitable for large events. At the UK’s Isle of Wight music festival 50,000 consumers were handed rPET T-shirts or tents, for example.
“Another idea is to liven up recycling and find ways to give a helping hand to mums, who most often are the recycling ‘champions’ and ‘watchdogs’ in the home.
Second: get the right materials to the right place. “CCE can’t do this alone”. In this activity Fostplus, of which CCE was a founding member, is “best in class”, he notes, while the lack of standardisation in the UK is seen as “the big challenge” for CCE.
The third focus area is reprocessing. “Export to China is unacceptable. The Lincolnshire PET plant belongs to an adolescent industry. Is there a way we can help that sector to grow effectively?
“My way is to apply rigour into this area - rigorous data assessment and business criteria. Let’s get into the data, the players and where the value chain is broken. We would never launch a new product if we didn’t know the consumer, and we find out by applying rigorous and high-level interrogation.”
CCE is now making decisions on the back of data.
“We need to talk the language of the marketing community and the supply chain. We have a job as influencers.” And who needs to be influenced? “At Asda, the grocery chain in the UK, the topic belongs to the CSR conversation. Momentum comes from the buying team in Asda, where the quality team defines standards. A recycling scheme rolled out in 30 of Asda’s largest stores is, as they say, ‘soon coming to a retailer near you’.”
Patrick is one of seven people with a function in the rPET supply chain.
“My day consists of meetings with potential external partners and working with my own team to bring scale. Pan Europe, we make video conference calls. Our point of difference is that we work half of the time downstream and the other half focused on supporting marketing and supplying raw material for public affairs team. We have a commitment to transform recycling, drawing on evidence.”
What does he consider his strengths? “The ability to build a compelling plan and explain complex, non-core, issues that others can buy into; and my ability to influence the teams to work collaboratively to deliver the plan. Also, it is exciting for me to see a joint venture develop and I think I can convey that excitement to retailers from the ‘mom and pop’ stores to the biggest grocery chains.”
Patrick McGuirk Patrick McGuirk