Coke launches ‘green’ factory, bottle


Ray Maota

PlantBottle technology reduces carbon
emissions during the production
process of the bottles.

Valpré received the “Gold Quality” label
in May 2011 by Monde Selection, an
international institute testing consumer
products and granting them quality awards.
(Images: Coca-Cola)

Angela D Harrell
Coca-Cola South Africa
+27 11 644 0727

Coca-Cola South Africa celebrated the opening of its new “green” Valpré Spring Water plant in Heidelberg, south-east of Johannesburg, by launching an environment-friendly plastic bottle – of which 30% is organic material.

The US$54-million (R371-million) state-of-the-art facility was opened on 7 July 2011 by the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa.

Run by a group of black women, the factory has been described by the beverage giant as the “greenest plant in Africa”.

The method used to manufacture the 100% recyclable PlantBottle packaging produces far fewer carbon dioxide emissions than that used to make conventional plastic bottles.

Molewa said at the launch: “The opening of the new Valpré plant in Heidelberg, and the launch of PlantBottle, supports government’s mandate to create infrastructure, develop skills, increase the number of women in the workforce and ensure sustainable development with a focus on minimising the impact on the environment.

“It is a notable example of the kind of development that we encourage all South African industries to adopt.”

Coca-Cola chose Heidelberg for its proximity to distribution sites in the Gauteng region, where demand for bottled water is high.

It also chose the town because the chemical composition of the underground water there is similar to that at Valpré’s Polokwane plant in Limpopo province.

“When we set out in 2009 to build this plant, we did so with the goal of ensuring that the plant reinforced all that the Coca-Cola Company and Valpré Spring Water stand for, which is unwavering quality and commitment to the sustainability of our environment and communities,” said Bill Egbe, the company’s president in South Africa.

Greening the bottling industry

“With the new Heidelberg plant, Valpré will reduce its carbon footprint, lower its water usage ratio, adopt energy-efficient lighting and production technologies, and boost its solid waste recovery – all while providing its market with a sustainable product packaged in a bottle that takes a giant step towards using renewable resource,” said Charlotte Metcalf, executive director of South African National Bottled Water Association (SANBWA).

SANBWA, a voluntary association of bottlers representing the entire bottling chain, sets safety and quality measures for the industry.

The new plant maximises use of natural light and water, and includes recyclable material in its building, thereby reducing dependence on non-renewables.

To ensure the plant matches up to the standards of top green buildings around the world, it is undergoing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

LEED certification is an internationally recognised programme developed by the US Green Building Council in March 2000, which promotes sustainable building and development practices.

It is considered the benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

A first for Africa

The newly introduced PlantBottle is Africa’s first completely recyclable plastic bottle using 30% plant material.

South Africa is the 10th market in the world to launch the bottle.

More than 2.5-billion plastic water bottles using PlantBottle technology have been produced in the US in the past two years.

“There is no other brand in Coca-Cola South Africa’s portfolio of 30 still and sparkling beverages better suited to represent sustainability and quality than Valpré,” Coke said in a statement.

The brand of bottled water received the “Gold Quality” label in May 2011 from Monde Selection, an international institute that tests consumer products.

Empowering women

Muhtar Kent, the worldwide CEO and chairperson of Coca-Cola, announced in 2010 that the company would empower 5-million women across the world by 2020, also known as the “5 By 20” pledge.

Kent said at the time: “Enhancing economic opportunities for women in the Coca-Cola value chain will result in increased incomes, enhanced skills in business, increased stature within the community and improved potential for communities.”

Empowering women to run the new Heidelberg plant is part of this pledge.

Other members of the town’s community will also benefit from the plant through increased job opportunities.