Himalayan Climate Initiative has been running its Social Enterprise, Nagar Mitra, in a bid to find long-term ways to manage used PET bottles. Beverage giant Coca-Cola partnered with the GIZ, the German international development fund, and Ganesha Ecoshphere, one of the biggest recycling companies in India, to run the project.
According to Prashant Singh, the founder of HCI, collectors from around the city bring bottles to Nagar Mitra’s crushing facility in Chappal Karkhana and they are paid above the market price. Big hotels and restaurants also send their used PET bottles to Nagar Mitra as part of their CSR. The crushing facility is entirely run by women. Before the bottles are crushed, the caps and the label are removed. However, the project is still in its pilot phase and less than 5 per cent of PET bottles used in Nepal reached the facility.
Coca-Cola’s Vice-President for Public Affairs and Communications, Ishteyaque Amjad, was in Kathmandu recently to visit the facility. Onlinekhabar caught up with him to talk about Coca-Cola’s take on sustainable business practices.
Is there any type of innovation that Coke is thinking of to produce more environment-friendly packaging? Is it possible to customise the packaging for countries like Nepal?
There are multiple innovations being introduced within plastic and PET packaging. In around 40 to 45 countries of the world, we are promoting something called “plant” bottles. Similarly, another innovation we are working on is the introduction of light-weight bottles. When the bottles weigh less, they can be transported easily and recycled easily.
As a company, we are committed to reducing waste. However, we have not planned anything specific for Nepal as yet. Nevertheless, any company like Coca-Cola looks for solutions available to people. Options which are already in progress are a priority for us.
How does the idea of recycling fit into the Coke’s global position on sustainable business practices?
We have environmental commitments. We need to reduce pollution. Reducing pollution also means reducing costs. Plastic bottles are also environment-friendly in a way because they are recyclable. In India, 70 to 75 percent bottles are being recycled.
But, every innovation comes with a number of challenges. The case with plastic packaging is also the same. There can be multiple debates about benefits and challenges of any option as all solutions come with enormous challenges and enormous benefits. We should multiply benefits and mitigate challenges as much as possible.
In Nepal, the current rate of recycling of plastic bottles is just five to 10 per cent. If we can scale it up to around 75 per cent, it will be a big transformation. We have partnered with the Himalayan Climate Initiatives with the same mission.
So, how does it relate to the global vision for sustainable business?
Let us imagine what an ideal world would look like. The world with no any environment challenges, no obesity, no water crisis, no diabetes… Wouldn’t it be nice? This is what sustainability means for us. If we do not promote sustainability, we will be endangering our own business than anything else. Therefore, we promote ecological sustainability as an integral part of our business. If you do not do this, you will not be able to remain in the business. We believe that every individual is a customer. Thus, our activities should do nothing wrong to any person.
So, how do you want the recycling project to go ahead in Nepal?
Each country has to find its own solution. We are not in the position to decide what the national policy should be. Recycling issue of Nepal should be tackled within Nepal. Long-term solutions should be invented and implemented within the nation.
We all have our roles to play, and we are ready to that.